Dinamo Zagreb and Villarreal face off at Stadion Maksimir on Thursday evening in the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final tie. The Croatian side stunned Tottenham Hotspur in the last round to advance, while Villarreal proved too strong for Dynamo Kiev in both legs.
Dinamo were lauded as heroes after eliminating Spurs in the last round and their record is almost as good. They have played 11 this season in the Europa League and only lost once. There's all kinds of sub-plots too. It's Zagreb's first European quarter-finals since 1970 and they have only lost one European home match in their last 17, while Villarreal are unbeaten in their last ten away Europa League matches.
Villarreal warmed up for their trip to Croatia with a comfortable 3-0 La Liga victory over another Europa League combatant, Granada, pushing their winning streak to five games in the process. Gerard Moreno helped himself to a hattrick in Saturday’s triumph, and the Spanish international, who has notched four times in his last three European appearances, will be Villarreal’s biggest danger man again on Thursday.
The Spanish side are currently sitting in sixth place in La Liga and look sure to return to Europa again next season. But it's their outstanding Europa League form this season that has made pundits sit up and take note – they have played ten games in the competition, won nine of them and drawn the other one.
In two head-to-head encounters between the two sides, Dinamo Zagreb have won won game and lost one game. The two clubs last faced each other way back in 2010, with Villarreal beating Dinamo Zagreb 3-0. A brace from Italian forward Giuseppe Rossi and a goal from Argentine striker Marco Ruben sealed the deal for Villarreal.