Group D kicks off Thursday in the UEFA Europa League as Croatian side Rijeka play host to Greek side AEK Athens.
Stadion HNK Rijeka, Reka, Croatia (Hrvatska) 14 Sep 2017 5:00 pm (GMT)
Key Stat: AEK have lost just once to Croatian sides in six matches.
Expert Verdict: Rijeka and AEK Athens will come into this Group D match knowing that they need to get points on the board quickly if they are to have a chance at moving on. AC Milan are almost guaranteed to advance, so it could become a three-way scrap for second place. Points now could make a huge difference after six matches have been played in December. The away side will have it tough here, but we like their chances to take a point from Croatia.
Matjaz Kek has a worry over center midfielder Mate Males after he left the pitch early two matches back. However, winger Heber- who had the same fate- has recovered and looks like playing a role here.
Striker Mario Gavranovic is a man of form at the moment for the Croatians. The 27 year old Swiss man has scored three goals in the Croatian league as well as having scored three times in the Champions League qualifying matches, showing he's very capable of being a danger to AEK here.
Rijeka dropped out of the Champions League after losing to Olympiakos in the playoff round, but they are doing well in the Croatian league in second place at the moment. They have recent wins over Inter Zapresic (away, 1-3) and Cibalia (7-0, home) to look back on.
Defenders:Vesovic, Puncec, Zuparic, Zuta
Attacking Midfielders:Kvrzic, Gorgon, Heber
Manolo Jimenez will be missing goalkeeper Vasilios Barkas, center backs Vasilios Lampropoulous and Dmytro Chygrysnkiy, and forward Georgios Giakoumakis due to injuries.
Croatian striker Marko Livaja could be the man to help be the downfall of a team from his own country here. The 24 year old, on loan from Las Palmas, has yet to score a goal this season but did have an assist on Sunday to help propel his team in their 4-0 rout.
AEK haven't lost since back at the very start of August when they fell to CSKA Moscow in the UCL third qualifying round. Since then, they have two draws and three wins, including a 3-0 home victory over Club Brugge in the playoff round and a 4-0 home win over Larissa in the league on Sunday.
Defenders:Bakakis, Cosic, Vranjes, Helder Lopes
Defensive Midfielders:Ajdarevic, Johansson
Attacking Midfielders:Chistodoupoulous, Manatalos, Klonaridis
These sides will meet for the very first time in Thursday's group stage opener.
Bet365 have the following odds available for this match:
Rijeka are at 13/10 to win, a draw is at 21/10, and an AEK Athens win is at 23/10.
It's a little bit of a surprise to see that Rijeka have been given the favorites tag in this match. They aren't way out ahead of the field, but they still do have the edge in the eyes of the bookmakers. It must be due to home field.
The worrying part, though, and the part that makes us like AEK is the fact that Rijeka were just eliminated by Greek opposition in the UCL playoffs. On top of that, AEK have done very well with Croatian sides in the past.
The biggest kicker here, though, is that Rijeka are winless in their last four European matches. That shows they aren't in good form right now in the slightest ahead of this match.
AEK Athens +1 handicap to tie is at 13/5.
AEK Athens tick all the boxes here and look like they could get the victory in this affair.