Our prediction for this Europa Conference League match:
Real Betis and Dinamo Zagreb take on each other at Estadio Benito Villamarin in what is expected to be one of the most exciting games of Thursday’s program in the Conference League last 32. Los Beticos did well to beat Cadiz in their last league match and, no doubt, they want to give fans yet another reason to celebrate. A man to keep an eye on in the home team will be January signing Pablo Fornals, who sealed the victory against the Yellows, while all Isco, Ayoze Perez, Guido Rodriguez, and Marc Bartra should miss out with injuries.
The Croatian champions, on the other hand, played out a 2-2 draw with Lokomotiva Zagreb in the local derby at the weekend. Even though key attacker Bruno Petkovic has found his goal-scoring touch of late, home win should be considered as Manuel Pellegrini’s men have turned their Estadio Benito Villamarin into a real fortress. Josip Drmic remains on the sidelines with a long-term injury.
Highlighted Player (Willian José):
Well-travelled Brazilian international Willian Jose was born in Porto Calvo and made his first football steps at a local Clube de Regatas. It was at the age of 17 that he was snapped by Gremio Barueri where he made 26 league appearances and scored six goal in his first – and only – senior season at the club.
In 2011, Willian Jose moved to Deportivo Maldonado but his five-year stint with the Uruguay outfit was marked by no less than seven different loan spells, one of which was to La Liga heavyweights Real Madrid. Standing at 186cm tall, Willian Jose is a notable presence in the box. This powerful centre forward will use his physicality to hold up ball and bring his teammates into play.
The Brazilian international did well to make a name for himself in Spain by playing for Zaragoza and Las Palmas, respectively, before he sealed a permanent move to Real Sociedad in 2016. A member of both FIFA U-20 World Cup and South American Youth Championship winning sides with Brazil in 2011, Willian Jose has not been given a chance to prove his worth at the senior level with Selecao.
Highlighted Team (Dinamo Zagreb):
Arguably the biggest club in Croatia and one of the most prominent football outfits in the Balkan region, Dinamo Zagreb have won 18 league titles, 11 of which came successively. Dinamo Zagreb have never been relegated to a lower tier of both Croatian and Yugoslav football.
Modri as they are called in Croatia are renowned for their impressive production line of youth footballers. Their highly organised football academy has so far produced world-class players such as Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic, Marko Pjaca and many others. Dinamo Zagreb play their home matches at the Stadion Maksimir in front of 35,000 people.
The club lacked support during the last couple of seasons due to fans’ disagreement with club management, most notably notorious Zdravko Mamic, who is under investigation for long-lasting corruption, tax evasion and embezzlement. For the first time since 2015, Dinamo Zagreb will have the full support of their most faithful supporters in the Champions League.