Astana vs Dinamo Zagreb – Tuesday, August 7, 15:00 BST/16:00 CEST – Astana Arena, Astana, Kazakhstan
Astana are looking to return to the UEFA Champions League group stage. The FC Astana were the first club from Kazakhstan to reach the group stage of the UEFA Champions League in the 2015/16 season.
The four times in a row Kazakh champions competed in the UEFA Europa League last season and once again wrote Kazakh history by becoming the first club from the Central Asian republic to reach the knockout stage of a UEFA competition. Knocked out in the round of 32 Astana by Benfica Astana nonetheless have become a symbol for the growth of football in the country.
Astana are, in fact, directly owned by the Kazakh federal government and the President of Kazakhstan is also the nominal President of the football club – as such Astana have access to almost limitless resources. But instead of squandering them all on international superstars FC Astana have opted for slow and steady growth instead.
Despite losing long-serving head coach Stanimir Stoilov to the Kazakh national team, Astana have remained dominant domestically – 22 games into the current Kazakh Premier League Astana are once again top of the table. Furthermore, with the Kazakh Premier League in mid-season, Astana have a big advantage over most teams in the qualification stage of the Champions League, who have to play this stage of the tournament while also preparing for their domestic seasons.
Dinamo Zagreb are indeed one of those clubs. The Croatian side are two games into the domestic 1.HNL Liga. Dinamo drew NK Rudes 1-1 and then beat NK Istra on matchday 2.
The 19-times Croatian champions reconquered the domestic league in 2017/18 after finishing second to HNK Rijeka in 2016/17. Furthermore, Dinamo made both negative, and positive, headlines throughout the summer.
Ahead of the World Cup, the club was in the headlines during the trial of Zdravko Mamić, who had run the club like his fiefdom. World Cup hero, and former Dinamo Zagreb player, Luka Modrić was criticised in Croatia for making multiple statements during the Mamić trial, and could. As a result, faces consequences himself.
During the World Cup the midfielder, however, was one of 14 Croatia players, who in the past has played for Dinamo Zagreb. Dinamo, are in fact, a production line of talented players. Without a doubt, there will be once again plenty of scouts on the stands when Dinamo try to qualify for the Champions League group stage for the first time since the 2016/17 season.
Astana vs Dinamo Zagreb – Players to look out for:
Antonio Rukavina #2 – Astana
Serbian national team player Antonio Rukavina joined Astana on July 4, 2018 from La Liga side Villarreal. A member of Serbia’s 2018 FIFA World Cup squad Rukavina has been brought in to add international experience to the squad. The Serbian wing-back has played in Germany and Spain before heading to Kazakhstan. Playing 17 La Liga games last season Rukavina has seen his game time diminish, however, and is now playing in Kazakhstan for a final pay cheque.
Mario Gavranović #11 – Dinamo Zagreb
The Swiss-Croatian forward Mario Gavranović has found a second life in his career at Dinamo Zagreb. Once considered among the best talents in Swiss football Gravranović failed to break into the first team at Schalke after joining the club from Yverdon-Sport in 2010. A loan stint to Mainz and an eventual transfer to FC Zürich did not improve his situation. In 2015 Gavranović joined Rijeka, and his career took off. Dinamo Zagreb signed the striker in the 2017/18 winter transfer window, and Gavranović led his club to the 2018 Croatian championship.
Astana vs Dinamo Zagreb – Match Stats
- Astana and Dinamo Zagreb have never faced each other in a competitive UEFA match.
- Astana were the first team from Kazakhstan to reach the Champions League group stage and the first club to reach the knockout stage of a UEFA competition.
- Astana eliminated Sutjeska Nikšić from Montenegro in the first round of qualifying and Midtjylland, from Denmark, in the second round.
- Dinamo Zagreb knocked out Hapoel Be’er Sheva, from Israel, in the previous round.
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Astana vs Dinamo Zagreb – 2-1
Astana vs Dinamo Zagreb – Lineups
Eric – Shomko, Anicic, Postnikov, Rukavina – Maevskiy – Henrique, Muzhikov, Kleinheisler, Tomasov – Kabananga
Head Coach: Roman Grygorchuk
Zagorac – Leovac, Perić, Benković, Moharrami – Olmo, Sunjić, Fiolić – Orsić, Gavranović, Hajrović
Head Coach: Nenad Bjelica
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others works for the Bundesliga and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.