A recent downturn in results have left HNK Hajduk Split coach Edoardo Reja and Krunoslav Jurčić of Croatian champions NK Dinamo Zagreb under pressure ahead of their eagerly-anticipated Saturday 'Vječni derbi' (Eternal derby).
The timing of the meeting is far from ideal for both sides. Six-time champions Hajduk, who finished second last term, are languishing in tenth spot after consecutive defeats and Reja knows he must inspire a turnaround in fortunes quickly. "I didn't come to Split on vacation," said the former SSC Napoli coach. "I came to invest a lot of me in this project, in a club that deserves much more.
"We need to push until the winter break and then make player changes," added the 64-year-old, whose team are 14 points off the summit. "If we prepare well, we can expect a good result. Things can't change overnight, yet despite the problems at the club, Hajduk need to reach second place in the table. We need to secure a place in Europe through the championship or cup. I will do everything I can to make that happen."
Although Dinamo are aiming for a fifth straight title and five points clear at the summit, they have started to stutter after taking a draw and a loss in their last two league games, the defeat by bottom side NK Zagreb, while a 2-1 reverse at AFC Ajax dropped them to third in UEFA Europa League Group A. Such results for a side that have been so dominant in Croatia have left Jurčić trying to repair morale.
"It was reasonable to set our sights on qualifying for the [UEFA] Champions League so this kind of crisis is normal," said the 39-year-old, whose side's latest attempt to reach the group stage was scuppered by FC Salzburg in the third qualifying round. "But it's good that it's not drastic in our case. We can see, for example, Real Madrid are also inconsistent even though they added Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaká to all those stars." Defeat by Hajduk, though, and the Blues' plight could rapidly become more severe.