By Chris Harris
As the Arsenal squad head to Croatia for the first leg of their Champions League qualifier, we've been getting the lowdown on Dinamo Zagreb.
Who are their key players? How much does Arsenal's visit mean to Croatian football fans? Are they glad that Thierry Henry is not fit? Drazen Brajdic, a journalist for leading Croatian newspaper Vecernji List, provides us with some answers.
Drazen, how big an occasion will this be for Croatian football?
For Croatia this is the second biggest football occasion of the year, after the World Cup. When Croatia were knocked out by Australia in the group stage we just had the club season to look forward to but now there is the Arsenal match, probably the biggest in modern Croatian club football. We also have the national team playing against England and Russia in the autumn. Football is a big passion for Croatians.
What will the atmosphere be like in the stadium?
The Dinamo fans make it a noisy and colourful stadium and we are expecting 30,000 there, the game has sold out.
Who are the key players in the Dinamo team?
The most talented player in the team is the Brazilian, Eduardo da Silva. He is a forward and most people here believe he will be playing for one of the biggest European teams in the future. He is not expected to move now but maybe in a year or two, depending on the offer. The most well-known player in Dinamo's side is Jens Nowotny, the German defender. He's not completely fit yet but he is an important player for Dinamo because they need a player who is experienced and can give some leadership. He is not 100 per cent at the moment but I think he will start. Dinamo rested some key players in the last qualifying round [against Ekranas] so they would be fresh to play Arsenal.
Is there a sense that Dinamo must capitalise on Arsenal's relative lack of match fitness in the first leg?
Yes. There is a real feeling that Dinamo's chance is in the first game and, when I was in Austria after the draw was made, Mr Wenger said that too. Physically Arsenal are not completely ready yet because they had 16 players at the World Cup so there is a chance for Dinamo to make something in the first leg, perhaps a draw, although of course they will try to score and win. If they can score and be lucky in the second leg then they have a chance, but Arsenal without the big names is still a big favourite.
Are the local fans disappointed that Thierry Henry will not be playing?
There is disappointment because the fans wanted to see him, for sure. When you have such a big team playing at your pitch you want to see all the stars. There are six players from the Champions League Final team who won't be there - Pires and Campbell have left, Lehmann is suspended and Henry, Cole and Ljungberg are not fit - but I think the fans will like the young Arsenal players. They will like the Spanish guys, Reyes and Fabregas. As for the others, like Van Persie and Eboue, the Croatian fans will find out all about them once the game starts.
Finally, what was the reaction to Croatia's World Cup exit?
Actually it was a very big disappointment because we believed
that Croatia would go through, especially after being drawn in a
group with Japan and Australia. We played well against Brazil and
thought we could beat the other sides but it has happened in the
past when Croatia have played a good game against better opponents
and then failed against teams on or below their level. In Japan and
Korea in 2002 we beat Italy but couldn't beat Ecuador.
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