Champions League preview: Dinamo Zagreb vs. AC Milan – Team news, opposition insight, stats and more

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan will make the trip to Croatia to face Dinamo Zagreb in their fifth Champions League group stage game on Tuesday night.

Milan were sat atop the group heading into the two meetings against Chelsea, but after losing both games by an aggregate score of 5-0 Milan have now slipped into third spot and need to win against Dinamo Zagreb and Red Bull Salzburg to make absolutely certain of reaching the knockouts.

Stefano Pioli insisted that the team must brush aside any anger from the Chelsea games and must focus on being composed in what will be an intense atmosphere.

Game date: Tuesday, 25 October
Kick-off time: 21:00 (CEST)
Venue: Stadion Maksimir
Referee: Marciniak (VAR: Kwiatkowski)

Team news

Pioli is still dealing with the same longer-term absentees as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Alessandro Florenzi, Alexis Saelemaekers and Davide Calabria have recently been joined by Mike Maignan on the list of players who are out until 2023.

During the 4-1 win over Monza on Saturday there was some panic about Sergino Dest as he came off at half-time while Brahim Diaz requested a substitution after pulling up clutching his muscle. The Spaniard has made the trip, while the full-back has not.

Fikayo Tomori will not be available for the game due to suspension and given the fact no right-backs are fit it should be Pierre Kalulu who maintains that spot with Matteo Gabbia coming back into the heart of defence.

MilanNews have published an update on the expected line-up for the game following Monday’s final training session ahead of the team’s flight to Croatia, starting with a defence that should be composed of Pierre Kalulu, Simon Kjaer, Matteo Gabbia and Theo Hernandez.

There are two positions up for grabs with a battle between Ante Rebic and Junior Messias for the right wing (the Croatian is favourite to start from the first minute at the moment) while Rade Krunic is currently expected to get the nod over Charles De Ketelaere as the playmaker.

Probable Milan XI (4-2-3-1): Tatarusanu; Kalulu, Kjaer, Gabbia, Theo Hernandez; Tonali, Bennacer; Rebic, Krunic, Leao; Giroud.

The opponents

Dinamo Zagreb are not out of contention for the knockout stages by any means and they are actually level with Milan on four points after they held Red Bull Salzburg to a 1-1 draw in round four.

Since playing Milan at San Siro, the Croatian champions have continued their almost ridiculous run in the league, beating NK Lokomotiv 2-1, Slaven Belupo 4-1, Varazdin 3-1 and most recently drawing 1-1 away at Hajduk Split to maintain an eight-point gap to Split in second place.

That means they have won 11 of their opening 13 league games to begin the 1. HNL campaign, with two draws and no defeats, including 38 goals scored and just 14 against.

In terms of selection news, Dinamo head coach Ante Cacic was not able to rotate for their game against second-placed Hajduk Split given the importance of the game, but reports suggest Luka Ivanusec should be fit enough to start after only featuring as a substitute on Friday.

Probable Dinamo Zagreb XI (4-4-2):
Livakovic; Ristovski, Peric, Sutalo; Misic; Moharrami, Ademi, Ljubicic, Ivanusec; Orsic, Petkovic.

Head to head

Milan and Dinamo have faced each other three times before and all of them have been in the Champions League, with one coming earlier this season. The two previous games were a two-legged affair took place in the third qualifying round and the Rossoneri won both games comfortably, 3-1 and 0-3.

The goalscorers for Milan were Andriy Shevchenko (who scored four times), Gianni Comandini and Jose Mari in those meetings, and then the Rossoneri triumphed 3-1 at San Siro in the second game of the current group stages with goals from Olivier Giroud, Alexis Saelemaekers and Tommaso Pobega.

Match facts…

➤ Milan have won all five of their previous meetings with Dinamo Zagreb in Europe, including qualifying matches. The Rossoneri represent a real bogey team for the Croatians, who have never suffered more European defeats against any other side. Dinamo are the team Milan have played the most matches against in Europe while maintaining a 100% record.

➤ The Rossoneri are set to take to the pitch at the Stadion Maksimir in Zagreb for the third time in their history. AC Milan have recorded two wins there so far, first a 3-1 success in the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1973 and then a 3-0 return leg victory in Champions League qualifying in 2000. However, the Diavolo will have a tough job on their hands tomorrow: Dinamo have lost just one of their last five home matches in the Champions League (against Manchester City in 2019).

➤ After scoring four goals in their first two group matches, the Rossoneri failed to find the net in their next two fixtures against Chelsea. It’ll therefore be important to return to scoring ways. Milan last went three consecutive Champions League games without netting in 2011.

➤ Olivier Giroud, who scored in the reverse fixture, has bagged 19 career goals in the Champions League, with 14 of these having come on the road (74%). In the competition’s history, out of all the players who have found the net at least 15 times, only Timo Werner has a higher percentage in this regard.

➤ In Zagreb, Rafael Leão will be aiming to score his first Champions League goal of the campaign. Nevertheless, the Portuguese man has already found a way to make an impact in this season’s competition: during the first four matchdays, only Vinícius Júnior has completed more dribbles than Rafa, who has twelve to his name.

Ones to watch

For the home side it is undoubtedly the forward duo who are the main threats as their excellent league form shows. Bruno Petkovic is the top scorer with 7 goals and 2 assists to his name in just 6 starts domestically.

He should be partnered by Mislav Orsic who scored the goal that temporarily halved the deficit at San Siro last month. He has 6 goals and 4 assists in 12 games played in the 1. HNL this season. The versatile Petar Bockaj must also be watched, as he has 5 assists (plus 2 goals) this term.

Among Pioli’s men it will certainly be interesting to see how Ante Rebic performs, partly because he is back in his home country and will encounter some of his friends, but also because he is set to start on the right. He has 3 goals and 2 assist this season.

Divock Origi’s goal against Monza will have Olivier Giroud feeling the pressure to add to his Champions League tally for Milan with a goal himself, while Rafael Leao did not start on Saturday and therefore should be full of energy to run at Ristovski.


This will not be an easy night for Milan against a team that have not lost at home all calendar year, who beat Chelsea and held Salzburg and continue to hammer everyone in the league. A hostile atmosphere will add to the challenge, but we have to be optimistic.

Dinamo Zagreb 1-2 AC Milan

Tags AC Milan Dinamo Zagreb Milan


  1. LOL, Comandini. Had one good derby and then faded into obscurity. Part of a mini banter era between the squads that dominated the early 90s and the squads of 2003-07.

    1. And there are rumours that barca are willing to sell him at winter transfer. First his salary doesn’t justify his performances second he doesn’t fit in xavi system……

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