The Round of 16 in the UEFA Europa League unfolds over the next two Thursdays, so before the action kicks off around Europe on Thursday afternoon, we thought we would preview the eight matchups of the round.
What Happened in Leg 1
Dinamo Zagreb entered leg one with a 23% chance of advancing through to the quarterfinal. They helped to overcome those odds by winning 1-0, scoring on a first-half penalty kick by Bruno Petković. It was Dinamo’s ninth clean sheet in their past ten matches across all competitions, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Benfica has never not advanced out of the Europa League Round of 16 – and had never lost a match in the group (5-3-0) – and now they have their work cut out for them to advance in this one.
What the Experts are Saying
The leg one victory didn’t quite move Dinamo to the favorite’s position, but they did double their chances of advancing. But at the match level, home club Benfica is the overwhelming favorite, with a 68% chance of winning. Dinamo has to hope the “inevitable” Benfica victory is only by one goal, as they would then advance on aggregate (or force extra time).
What We’re Thinking
Like the first match we previewed today, this has all the makings of a match that ends in a surprising result. Personally, I always tend to root for the underdog, so seeing Dinamo Zagreb pull it out and advance to the quarterfinals would be great, not only for them, but also for fans worldwide to get exposure to a new club.
Both clubs are currently holding down first place in their respective leagues, though the Primeira Liga in Portugal is a much more competitive league than the Croatian First Division. But Dinamo got the all important victory in leg one as underdogs, and I think they can do it again on Thursday.
Until next time…