Zrinjski vs Valetta
The Bosnia & Hercegovina champions will host Malta's equivalent FC Valletta in Mostar. Both teams are coming from Champions League exits and will now try to make it to the Europa League.
When speaking about Zrinjski, one of the first things to take into account is their incredibly strong home record. They won the Bosnian league with six points difference and had a 12-3-1 home record. The only loss at home came in October 2017. That being said, they score in every single home match and often more than once.
The new coach is Croatian, Ante Mise. He was recently the assistant manager of the Croatian national team in October last year. Before that, he was the manager of NK Vitez in the Bosnian league, and also previous shorter spells at Hajduk Split.
Zrinjski has got a solid central defensive pair and two young wing-backs in Adnan Kadusic and Marin Galic. Although, Adnan Kadusic will likely not start due to captain Pero Stojkic being the primary left back with his experience. In the classic 4-2-3-1 formation, Milos Filipovic on the right side is the offensive threat, who won the Bosnian top scoring award with 16 goals.
One of the most important players is 27 years old Nemanja Bilbija who is the central midfielder and playmaker. He finished third in the top scoring league and often act as a supporting striker. Even though they lost away against Trnava from Slovakia, the home game finished 1-1 and Zrinjski were in complete control of the game. They followed up with a victory in the domestic competition and showed no signs of disappointment or tiredness.
Valletta is a classic team from Malta, winning the Maltese Premier League with three points difference ahead of Balzan. The coach is Danilo Doncic who has spent many years coaching various teams in Malta and also a session in Cyprus. He is 12-6-0 with Valletta and has not lost a single game during his time in charge. This includes only Maltese opposition, plus the first round double draw with Kukesi from Albania.
In a traditional 4-3-3 formation, a lot of their play goes via Italian striker Matteo Piccolo who operates as one of three offensive attackers, coming to Malta from Serie D. Mario Fontanella is the central forward who joined from Floriana, with experience from Serie D in Italy as well. Defensively, Joseph Zerafa, Steve Borg, and Ryan Camilleri are all 30 years old and have many appearances for the Maltese national team. While they have experienced careers, they lack speed.
The average age in the line up is almost 29 years. This is surely an experienced team but often not enough to compete in Europe quality wise, as it is many players who are at the end of their careers and not showing any development curve for obvious reasons.
Zrinjski is a very two-sided team. At home, they can cause big harm to anybody and clearly have a strong fortress. Valletta is similar, they can stand up well at home but appear more passive away. They survived the trip to Albania against a toothless Kukesi, but the team from Bosnia will be anything but toothless. I expect a clear home victory.
Zrinjski vs Valetta prediction
Zrinjski -1 Asian handicap @ 1.84 with Unibet