July 27, 2020 – For the third time in history, Croatia will have two clubs in the Champions League qualifiers.
HRT reports that in the two attempts so far, Croatian clubs have not managed to win group competitions, and it will not be easy for Dinamo and Lokomotiva this season either.
Croatia had two clubs in the qualifications of the elite competition for the first time in the 1999/2000 season when the Croatian colors were defended by Dinamo, i.e., the then Croatia, and Rijeka. The Zagreb team was successful, while Rijeka was not.
The Blues had only one obstacle; in the third qualifying round, they knocked out the Hungarian club MTK and qualified for the group stage. After the 0:0 result in Zagreb, the team led by Osvaldo Ardiles won 2:0 in Budapest, and the hero of the match was the double scorer Josip Simic (58, 86).
Dinamo played in the group stage with Manchester United, Marseille and Sturm that season. Although they were the last in the group, the legendary “zero” at Old Trafford is still remembered.
Rijeka started the qualifications in the 2nd qualifying round, where they lost to Partizan. The Belgrade team celebrated 3:1 in front of their spectators, and in the return match at Kantrida with 3:0.
The following season, in the summer of 2000, Croatia also had two representatives in the Champions League qualifiers. They were Dinamo and Hajduk, and both clubs were eliminated.
Dinamo started as champions in the third qualifying round, but was knocked out by Milan. The Blues took the lead at San Siro in the first match with a goal by Renato Pilipovic in the 19th minute, but the Rossoneri turned the score around with three goals (Sevcenko 23, 42, Comandini 60).
Milan was convincing in the return match and celebrated 3:0 at Maksimir with goals by Shevchenko (23, 42) and Jose Maria (55).
Runner-up Hajduk started in the second qualifying round and was immediately shocked by Hungarian club Dunaffer (0:2, 2:2). The Hungarians won the first match at Poljud 2:0 (Tokoli 57, Eger 90), while the second match ended 2:2. In the return match, Hajduk led thanks to two goals by Mate Bilic (9, 28), but Dunaffer returned both times (Zavadszky 20, Tokoli 87).
Dinamo and Lokomotiva will fight in the third attempt for Croatian clubs in the elite competition.
Dinamo will start the hunt for the Champions League from the second or third qualifying round.
If in the Champions League round of 16, Lyon is eliminated by Juventus on August 7, and Napoli a day later by Barcelona, Dinamo will start their European journey in the third qualifying round. However, if at least one of the two clubs qualifies for the Final Eight, Dinamo will have to play the 2nd qualifying round.
The Blues will be the winners in both the second and third rounds, and perhaps in the final “play-off round”. Relegation in the Champions League play-offs brings a direct placement in the Europa League groups.
Lokomotiva starts from the 2nd round of qualifications, and it is inevitable that they will not be the top seed in the draw.
The name of their opponent will be known on August 10, and one game will be played, which is scheduled for August 25 or 26.
Relegation to the 2nd qualifying round of the Champions League brings placement to the 3rd qualifying round of the Europa League, however, if the Croatian runner-up skips the first hurdle in the qualifications, they will have guaranteed a European autumn. Namely, relegation in the 3rd round of the Champions League means direct placement in the Europa League group stage.
We emphasize that only one match will be played in all preliminary rounds, and a draw will decide the host. The only exception is the last, play-off round in which the standard two matches will be played.
The preliminary round of the Champions League will be played between August 8 and 11, the first qualifying round on August 18 and 19, the second on August 25 and 26, the third on September 15 and 16, and the playoffs on September 22 and 30. The group draw will be held in Athens on October 1, and the competition begins on October 20.
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