Greece vs Croatia Preview:
Probable starting lineups:
Karnezis; Retsos, Sokratis, Manolas, Tzavellas; Zeca, Tziolis, Christodoulopoulos, Fortounis, Giannotas; Mitroglu
Subasic; Vrsaljko, Vida, Lovren, Strinic; Rakitic, Brozovic, Kramaric, Modric, Perisic; Kalinic
Croatia won 4:1 on the first match and now Greece have a "mission impossible" to win with four-goal difference in order to secure participation in Russia. Even the defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos admits Croatia have likely "95 percent" already qualified for the World Cup. The Greek national team were solid throughout qualification, but played poor in the most important match of the year. Croatia were simply too good in Zagreb and the former European champions are at the verge of elimination. Coach Michael Skibbe was disappointed with the mistakes his defenders did. The absence of his key defender Kostas Manolas due to suspension was probably the reason why they conceded four goals. Just to mention, Greece had conceded just six goals in their 10 group games. Manolas is now back in the team and his presence should bring so much needed stability. Skibbe has no important missing players for this match.
Croatia played very good on Thursday and deserved the victory. Luka Modric opened the result from a penalty after a woeful mistake by Greece goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis, while Nikola Kalinic, Ivan Perisic and Andrej Kramaric secured a comfortable win. I believe the play-off experience was crucial there. Croatia become some sort of knock-out specialists and their four qualifications via play-offs is a record. So far Croatia have eliminated Iceland (WC 1998), Slovenia (Euro 2004), Turkey (Euro 2012) and Iceland (WC 2014). Coach Zlatko Dalic, who has replaced Ante Cacic just three days before the crucial match in qualifications against Ukraine, prepared an excellent tactic. Croatia dominated the possession and created a lot of goal-opportunities. Dalic has all players available, including the Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic who was left on the bench in the first leg due to injury. That means Croatia will be even stronger now, while the players confidence is very high.
Greece vs Croatia Preview:
I think both teams will score at Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium. Greece have no space for calculations, they will attack from the very first minute. They need to score at least three goals to keep their qualification hopes alive and Skibbe is likely to name a more attacking lineup. But the Croatian players will have lot of space for their fast counterattacks. That is why I expect an efficient match in Athens.
Greece vs Croatia Pick: Both teams to score - Yes