Next up in our continuing coverage of Europa League is a match between clubs that entered the round as near equal favorites to advance, but the winner of Leg 1 has now became nearly a 2-to-1 favorite. That winner was Viktoria Plzeň of the Czech Republic, who came back to knock of Croatia’s Dinamo Zagreb 2-1 at home. But with the match shifting to Zagreb, can Viktoria Plzeň advance? Or will Dinamo return the favor of winning at home and prevail?
The match kicks off from Stadion Maksimir in Zagreb on Thursday, 21 February at 5:55pm GMT (12:55pm EST).
What Happened in Leg 1
This match got the “best of the rest” treatment when we previewed Leg 1, and with good reason. As mentioned, the round started out as pretty much a toss-up, with Viktoria Plzeň the slight favorite with a 51% chance to advance.
The match was nearly scoreless for the entire first half before Dani Olmo came through for Dinamo Zagreb in the 41st minute, setting the half time score at 1-0 for the visitors.
Luděk Pernica didn’t allow that lead to last long once play resumed in the second half, scoring in the 54th minute to bring Viktoria Plzeň back even. It stayed knotted for almost another 30 minutes before Pernica sent home his second of the match in the 83rd minute, sealing the victory for the home team.
As expected, the match, aside from the score, was fairly equal: twelve shot attempts by each club, 53% possession for Viktoria Plzeň, around 80% passing accuracy. Will this change with the change in venue?
What the Experts are Saying
Viktoria Plzeň’s victory in Leg 1 increased their odds in advancing to 64% (according to FiveThirtyEight). They still don’t have much chance of making it beyond the Round of 16 (only 22% to make the quarterfinals), but a favorable draw for the next round could definitely shift those odds a bit. However, FiveThirtyEight expects a Dinamo Zagreb victory in this match (43% of simulations), but Viktoria Plzeň needs to only draw to advance, which accounts for their higher odds at making the next round.
What We’re Thinking
Dinamo Zagreb is currently running away with their domestic league (up 14 points with 17 matches remaining), so they haven’t been struggling like some of the other clubs at this stage of Europa League. They’ve lost only once at home across all competitions this year – a loss to the Young Boys in the playoff round of Champions League – and won their Europa League group pretty handily. They are the seeded team in this matchup, after all, and they are hoping that playing at home in this one will be a benefit.
Viktoria Plzeň definitely cannot boast the same level of performance this season, regardless of the results from Leg 1. I think a boisterous crowd back home for Dinamo Zagreb will be enough for them to win this match and advance on to the Round of 16.
Until next time…