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HNL Race Is On Fire

February 8, 2021



There’s too much to unpack in one post, but after a prolonged absence, one might look at the current HNL table and wonder what happened in 2020.



It helps to summarize it in each team’s recent form; Dinamo may still top the table, but have recently lost to NHL Sibenik and tp Rijeka and are tied with Osijek on points for the top spot.



Osijek have been using their secret weapon, former Dinamo coach, Nenad Bjelica, and have won five straight. Their most recent loss? A 4-1 thumping by third-placed Gorica, who have also been nearly unstoppable this season. Gorica has had a slight bump in form recently, dropping points to Varaždin and Istra but remain in third place having played two fewer matches than its contemporaries, Dinamo and Osijek.





Meanwhile, Rijeka has three fewer matches played and is only three points behind Gorica, which is still 15 points from the top of the table. No worries for Rijeka though, as their top-four spot is most-likely safe as only Hajduk Split is behind them, seven points back. Hajduk has played two fewer matches than Rijeka. Hajduk’s rough patch began in October, losing to Šibenik and Istra in consecutive weeks before seeing a December that saw only defeat in every match. Their start to 2021 was no better as they have lost to Dinamo, Osijek and Lokomotiva, who earned their victory at Poljud since 2012.





Lokomotiva have, themselves, been down in the dumps, earning only 15 points in 19 matches. They are ahead of only Istra by two points, but have played on more game. After a few coaching changes, former Dinamo captain Jerko Leko has taken charge of the club. Meanwhile, relative newcomers Varaždin and Šibenik are fighting to stay in the top flight in this topsy-turvy season.



Gorica’s Kristijan Lovrić is leading the pack in goals scored, with 13 under his belt so far. Just behind him is Osijek’s Ramon Mierez with 12 and Dinamo’s Mario Gavranović and Mislav Oršić with 11 and 10, respectively.



This past match week saw some thrilling matches where after being down 2-0, Rijeka scored three goals in 20 minutes, including a wuderstrike by Sandro Kulenović in the 94th minute, to snatch three points from Lokomotiva. Meanwhile, Iyayi Believe Atiemwen scored his third goal in three matches in Dinamo’s close 1-0 win over NK Istra on Sunday. Osijek earned three points with win over Hajduk Split. HNK Gorica will travel to Koprivnica today to try and keep up with the top of the table.





Colin O'Haravić
Posted By: Colin O'Haravić 17 comments

  1. ARMADA87 says:

    Interesting season so far. I think top 3 will finish:
    1. Osijek
    2. Dinamo
    3. Rijeka (by a point or two over Gorica)
    with Lokomotiva going down and Istra losing the relegation/promotion tie to Dugopolje at the end of the season.
    Miérez on Osijek will finish as top scorer.

  2. Slavonac from Canada Slavonac from Canada says:

    personally, I’d rather see anyone else but Dinamo win the league this year. its not healthy for the same team to win year after year and I’d like to see someone in our top 3 join Dinamo in Europe.

  3. Markus says:

    Even though I’m a Dinamo fan, I kinda want Osijek to win this year. I also hope Hajduk can fight back to their winning ways in the early 21st century. Really want a competitive HNL. But here are my predictions for the season finish:
    1. Dinamo
    2. Osijek
    3. Rijeka
    4. Gorica
    5. Sibenik
    Istra will be relegated.
    Lovric as top scorer.

  4. ARMADA87 says:

    @ Markus
    Read between the lines of your comment. Hajduk are having a bad season as is, but to say they won’t finish top half of the table is something. I’m looking at the HNL table going back to independence and I think that would be the first time since independence that Hajduk have not finished at least at the top half of the table. Not sure about the Jugo league and too lazy to look back there.
    I think Hajduk turn it around a bit and eek out a 5th place finish. I think it would be a total embarassment to finish outside of the top half and to be below newly promoted Sibenik, to boot.

  5. Eric says:

    How many spots do we get for next Champions & Europa Leagues? WTF is this new Europa Conference League? Everyone gets a participation trophy 😉

  6. ARMADA87 says:

    @ Eric
    Long story short, our champion goes to 1st round qualifying for UCL.
    Path is a lot harder now, unless we somehow get back to 15th place in UEFA Coefficients and then we get 2 teams into UCL and one starts in the 2nd round. Even if a team like Dinamo win their 1st round and 2nd round qualifiers, you have some tough teams in the 3rd round and playoff. I bet the days of DZG making UCL with *some* frequency are over, unless they get a gift of a path and have a strong side.
    We no longer get any teams directly into the UEL, only federations 15th or higher get teams in that, which is good for the Europa League in that it is more of mid-tier competiton now. If we have teams from the UCL that lose in the 3rd and 2nd round UCL qualifiers, they end up in UEL 3rd round or playoff qualifiers. Think it will be much more realistic for our Champion to lose in UCL qualifying and then drop into UEL. Even with the current European setup, none of our teams have any business in the UCL groups. It’s nice to see, but I don’t want to watch Rijeka or Dinamo play some big side that plays its reserves and we still lose 3-1.
    Then there’s UECL which is where our Cup Winner, 2nd and 3rd place teams go (all in 2nd qualifiying round). I can see the Rijeka’s, Osijek’s and Hajduk’s (once they get their shit together) of the world making runs to the group stage in this. Kinda seems like Intertoto Cup level competition. Once you get to the 3rd qualifying round and playoff round, you’re potentially playing the 3rd place teams from mid tier leagues and the 4th-5th-6th place teams from petica leagues. Our teams outside of Dinamo belong here. We’re not going to be playing any glamour sides in the UECL but it will be teams that match our ‘weight category’ kinda and teams that on a good day, we have a chance to beat.
    Given I’m a fan of a team that’s not Dinamo, I like this setup actually and should provide some entertaining football, it’s just not going to be teams with a lot of star power we’re playing against, but will be good experience for our young guys looking to get exposure in Europe and move to a bigger league.


  7. Maminjo says:

    I want Osijek to win it just to really put a stamp on how good a coach Nenad Bjelica is.
    I don’t wan there to be any doubt who our next NT coach should be.

    There’s a decent chance Dalic leaves after the World Cup (maybe even the Euros), so it’s important that we have a good replacement.
    I think Bjelica is more talented and proven than Dalic (not to knock Dalic though) and it would be a disaster if he didn’t become our next coach.
    Imagine if it was Zoran Mamic instead? LOL. Index and Torcida calling for the ‘bojkot’ all over again.

  8. CiganJeCigan says:


  9. Anonymous says:

    I’ve heard of fair-weather fans, bandwagoners, but fans that want “their team” to lose, this must be a Croatian thing?

  10. BEĆAR says:

    Atletico is Covid-19 decimated and Šime still can’t find a way onto the pitch. Disappointing…..

  11. Iggy says:

    Slightly better day in the tennis today, Coric and Vekic both had wins.. Martic is playing some serb scum later on tonight so see how we go then

  12. youth scout says:

    cigan… absolutely luv da lineup cause i not sold on vlasic too. kid is overrated and needs to be benched- especially when we have budimir to start in his place.

  13. Markus says:

    @youth scout
    Are you kidding me lol? Why do you think Vlasic is overrated? He’s a fantastic young player and one of our biggest if not biggest talents. He is much younger and MUCH more quality than Budimir. I’d like to see why you think he should be benched.

  14. Markus says:

    Yeah, I know, it would be a disaster. But Sibenik has been kinda on a good run lately and I definitely wouldn’t rule that possibility out. They’re only 2 points behind Hajduk after all.
    Anyway, I also doubt Hajduk drops below them, it was just a hot take.

  15. Eric says:

    Thanks for the breakdown. I suppose that getting some European experience for our teams is a good thing, but will this 3rd tier competition really get any traction / fan support? I thought that was the purpose of the Europa League. I think our teams are good enough to compete in EL. I do agree that our teams don’t really belong in UCL, but you never know, maybe Dinamo (or Osijek, or Rijeka..) will get their shit together one day and win a few games (re: Dinamo vs Atalanta 4:0).

  16. Maks says:

    This youth scout character is either a troll or a kid trying to be a gangster. Pay him no heed.

  17. ARMADA87 says:

    @ Markus
    Fair enough. I mean, it could happen, like you said. Sibenik won today vs. Istra and if Hajduk lose to Rijeka today (should finish a tie) Sibenik are clear at 5th.
    @ Eric
    Yeah, if the Europa League stayed the way it has been for the last 10 or so years, I think Dinamo, Rijeka, Osijek and Hajduk can get results there, depending on the year. We’ll see what comes of this Europa Conference League. I bet the first rounds of qualification will be a snooze, but once you get to the final qualification rounds, it should be some good matchups.

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