Croatia vs Greece
FIFA World Cup Qualifying Play-off – UEFA
Date: Thursday, 9th November 2017
Kick-off at 19:45 UK/ 20:45 CET
Venue: Stadion Maksimir (Zagreb).
Croatia welcome Greece for the first leg of the FIFA World Cup qualifying tie on Thursday evening.
Croatia finished second in a tricky group that was eventually won by Iceland. While the results at home deemed satisfactory, the two away defeats at Iceland and Turkey pushed them down to fight for a second place. It was a nervy finish to the group phase and they had to win at Ukraine in the final game and duly delivered with a late double strike from inform Hoffenheim forward Andrej Kramaric.
On the other hand, Greece were not pretty in their qualifying campaign in a group they were always fighting for the second spot behind Belgium even before a ball was kicked. Their main opponent in the phase was Bosnia-Herzegovina, whom they drew in both legs and added a draw against Belgium to it to finish three points clear to clinch the runner up spot.
In the nutshell, it was a strong campaign for the Greeks who finished bottom in the group during the Euro 2016 qualifiers. Since, then it has been a massive raise in stature under the management of former Hertha Berlin manager Michael Skibbe. The team lost just once during the 10 matches and raked up 5 wins and 4 draws.
Croatia Team News
Zlatko Dalic will have some concerns over the fitness of Dejan Lovren who hardly got enough playing time in recent weeks with Liverpool. Matej Mitrovic could replace him if the former fail to pass the fitness test in time.
Another player who saw less playing time in recent weeks is Marcelo Brozovic, but he is expected to slot in along with Ivan Perisic and Andrej Kramaric behind Mario Mandzukic.
Meanwhile, Vedran Corluka, Mateo Kovacic and Milan Badelj are unavailable for selection due to respective injuries.
Croatia: Predicted Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1)
Subasic – Pivaric, Lovren, Vida, Vrsaljko – Rakitic, Modric – Perisic, Kramaric, Brozovic – Mandzukic.
Greece: Team News
Michael Skibbe has most of the core players fit and available for selection for the first leg play-off tie.
However, the German tactician will miss the service of Petros Mantolas who has been pulling the strings from the wings in the team’s recent success.
Kostas Mitroglou made just four starts for Marseille this seasons, but when it comes to Greece national team, he must be the first to get his name on the starting eleven.
Greece: Predicted Starting Line-up (4-4-2)
Karnezis -Tzavellas, Sokratis, Manolas, Torosidis – Stafylidis, Samaris, Tziolis, Zeca – Fortounis, Mitroglou.
Croatia vs Greece: Head-to-head
There has been six meetings between the two sides including 2 friendlies and four qualifying fixtures and Greece and slightly ahead with 2 wins as against Croatia’s 1 with the remaining three ending in stalemates.
In qualifiers, it is 1 win each and 2 draws.
Greece managed to take draws in the two previous occasions at Stadion Maksimir.
Croatia vs Greece: Predictions
Croatia is the team with quality and come with a good account of themselves in home games, unbeaten in 18 since a loss to Belgium back in 2013. It has been the away results that let them down this term and they must look to earn a win in the first leg of this tie.
However, Greece must be considered as a dangerous custodian in double legged play-off ties. They successfully negotiated for the 2010 and 2014 editions by beating Ukraine and Romania respectively. And this was done by edging out away draws in the first leg. Currently, they are unbeaten in 12 of their last 13 away games in the World Cup qualifiers, which set stage for an extremely tense battle on Thursday night.
Considering the above insight, I can see this turning out to be a low scoring affair. And it will hard to separate the team once the final whistle blows.
Correct Score Prediction: 1-1 @ 10.00 odd.
Croatia vs Greece: Bet Tips
Primary option has to be Asian Lines – Under 2.25 goals @ 1.76
Back Greece to avoid a heavy defeat by using Asian Handicap +1.25 for 2.00 odd
Brave punters must back the full-time Draw @ 4.60.
All Odds courtesy of 888Sport
Bonus Offer: Register with 888Sport and earn €30 FREE BETS + €10 Casino Bonus! Terms and Conditions Apply