Poljud North Stands Sold Out, 100km Jugo Winds: Hajduk Hopes for First Home Win Over Rijeka Since 2011

Daniela Rogulj

The highly anticipated Adriatic Derby between Hajduk and Rijeka will be played at Poljud on March 31, 2018, from 17:00.

It’s unbelievable to think that Hajduk hopes to ruin Rijeka at Poljud tonight for the first time in 2428 days. The last coach to lead Hajduk to a victory over Rijeka was Krašimir Balakov, who celebrated a 2:1 win with goals by Ante Vukšić and Srđan Andrić in August 2011. But maybe this feat isn’t so impossible, considering Hajduk defeated Dinamo at Maksimir this season for the first time in eight and a half years. 

Since the Split club’s last Poljud win over Rijeka, they have changed coaches ten times, had six different captains and four club presidents. Though Hajduk has become a regular customer of Matjaz Kek, this time, Kek’s counterpart is the “black cat” Željko Kopic”, the former coach of Slaven Belupo who led the club to their best season. Kopić has continued at the same pace in his new coaching job at Hajduk, and in the autumn season, Kopić led Hajduk to a win over Rijeka at Rujevica for the first time in over five years. If you recall, Hajduk defeated Rijeka 2:1 with goals by Bašić and Erceg, and Letica became the hero after saving a Rijeka penalty. The people of Split certainly hope that Kopić will be Kek’s kryptonite for the game tonight. 

Something you may not know is that there are more than a few ties between these two teams going into the great derby. For example, Heber, Rijeka’s most dangerous player was “invented” by Kopić at Slaven Belupo. The best goalscorer of the championship will be the biggest threat to Hajduk’s defense; and interestingly enough, before the game, Heber couldn’t even name the Hajduk defender who would be marking him tonight. 

Kek, on the other hand, cares most about Filip Bradarić’s form. A child of Hajduk, Bradarić achieved affirmation and status as a representative of Rijeka, but his recent US tour with the Croatia national team could be fatal to the midfielder. Kek had stated that Bradarić was exhausted from traveling and he would see if he could play just before the game. 

This derby has more at stake than most: in second place, Hajduk has a definite advantage over the third-placed Rijeka. But in addition to the battle for second, the winner of this game can also catch the lead to Dinamo in first.

Hajduk is, however, plagued with injuries, cards and illnesses. Already missing seven of their starters for this game, Kopić also trained without national team representatives Letica, Ismajli, Šego, Nižić, and Hamza for the last two weeks. Nonetheless, Kopić and Hajduk claim to be ready for the derby and believe in good individual and team efforts. And let’s not forget, Hajduk fan group ‘Torcida’ has completely sold out the north stands of Poljud, and this stormy weather in Split can make anything possible. 

If you’re not at Poljud tonight, switch on those television screens – it’s going to be a wild ride. 

Source: Gol.hr


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