Defending champions Hajduk Split have some work to do if they’re to overturn a 5-0 deficit in the second leg of their HR Nogometni Cup clash with Dinamo Zagreb.
The sting was taken out of their highly anticipated quarter-final encounter when Zagreb ran riot in the opening game at the Stadion Maksimir.
A brace from Duje Cop and goals from Josip Simunic, Junior Fernandes and talented youngster Alen Halilovic did the damage for the hosts.
The return leg will mark Simunic’s first appearance since FIFA slapped him with a 10-match suspension from international football, which will see him miss out on this summer’s World Cup.
The Zagreb captain was accused of making pro-Nazi chants after Croatia’s World Cup play-off win over Iceland, per the Guardian.
Croatia defender Josip Simunic will miss the 2014 World Cup after being given a 10-match ban by Fifa for discriminatory behaviour.— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) December 16, 2013
Zagreb and Split have won 18 of the 22 Cup finals down the years, but it’s the former who have put themselves in the best position to do so again this year.
They have lost just once in their last 10 games against Hajduk Split, and their eight consecutive league titles have tipped one of Europe’s fiercest rivalries heavily in their favour.
Zagreb have struggled for form on the continent this year but they have excelled on the domestic front.
The club that gave us players such as Davor Suker, Luka Modric, Dejan Lovren, Niko Kranjcar and, erm, Igor Biscan, failed to qualify for the Champions League Group Stage before crashing out of the Europa League at the first hurdle.
Zagreb finished bottom of Group B, below Ludogorets, Chornomorets Odesa and PSV Eindhoven, with just one point to show from six games.
However, in the 1. HNL, Croatia’s top division, Zagreb sit top with 43 points from 19 games. Zoran Mamic’s side are five points clear of Split with a game in hand.
The vociferous Eternal Derby always promises entertainment and drama, but with such a comfortable cushion expect Zagreb to advance to the semi-final with little fuss.