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Croatia to start new season

27 July 2008 15:35

ZAGREB (SW) - Today the Croatian soccer league celebrates adulthood as its eighteenth season starts at 20:00 local time. Last year's champion, Dinamo Zagreb will start the season against Rijeka as they will be looking for a fourth consecutive title.

Last year the gap between Dinamo and the rest of the league was huge, but this year it's a different picture. Dinamo lost the backbone of their squad, Luka Modric, to Tottenham in a record-breaking transfer for the Croatian league. They are also coming into this season without last season's goalkeeper, and without the "Croatian Gattuso", Ognjen Vukojevic, who transferred to Dynamo Kiev.

Replacements were brought in but the question is how good Dinamo's new players will be. Dinamo wasn't very impressive against Linfield in the first qualifying round for the Champions League and the rest of the teams will use any opportunity to leapfrog Dinamo as Croatia's top club.

One of the clubs that is capable of such a feat is Dinamo's first opponent Rijeka who weren't very active this summer. Returnees Ahmad Sharbini and Igor Novakovic will be looking to make their mark, while the departure of striker Georgi Aleksandar Ivanov could be felt.

Dinamo's biggest worry won't be Rijeka but their biggest rival, Hajduk Split, who were very active during the mid season.

Hajduk's management went through a change and their new president Mate Peroš and new manager Goran Vucevic will give their best effort to bring the title back to Split. Striker Ante Rukavina sale to Panathinaikos is the most notable departure and Senijad Ibricic is their biggest capture. Their squad will be a mixture of youth and experience.

Other teams that will be contenders for a top 3 finish are Osijek and Slaven Belupo. Slaven Belupo was last year's runner up and is coming into the new season with more or less the same squad as last year. Osijek, who came in third place last year, hasn't made any major changes either.

The other teams in the league are Cibalia, Croatia Sesvete, Inter-Zaprešic, Šibenik, Varteks, Zadar, and Zagreb.

The new season delivers a novelty: a new match-day, Sunday. The question is whether it will also deliver a new champion.

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Tuesday 25 November

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1. HNL table

# Team MP D P
1 15 +26 37
2 16 +27 36
3 15 +13 26
4 16 -4 21
5 16 +1 19
6 16 -4 18
7 16 -6 16
8 16 -12 15
9 16 -15 14
10 16 -26 12

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