Zagreb on target for eighth straight title
© Getty Images

Croatia kings Dinamo Zagreb are firmly on track for their eighth successive league title after finishing the first part of the season 11 points clear of second-placed Hajduk Split.

Once again there has simply been no stopping Dinamo as captain Ivan Kelava and his colleagues recorded 16 victories, two draws and just four defeats from their 22 games, boasting the most goals (49), the best goal difference (+31) and conceding the second-fewest (18) in an impressively dominant campaign.

In the first year since the league was reduced to just 12 teams, Dinamo never relinquished top spot after taking over at the summit on matchday five. They now must negotiate another 11 rounds in the second part of the season with fixtures for the remaining matchdays based on current standings. Yet what may seem like a runaway success was far from a foregone conclusion just five months ago.

Jurcic the catalyst
In November 2012, Dinamo's fate in the UEFA Champions League group stage was sealed after they failed to register a single point in their first four matches. Arguably worse was a humiliating a 1-0 defeat at the hands of city rivals and relegation strugglers NK in the league, a loss which ultimately saw head coach Ante Cacic replaced by Krunoslav Jurcic after less than a year in the job.

Jurcic had already coached the Blues between 2008 and 2009 and again in 2011, leading them to a domestic double in his first spell and into the Champions League for the first time in 12 years in his second. After 11 straight defeats in Europe's premier club competition, Dinamo finally registered a point with the 43-year-old at the helm, earning a 1-1 draw with Dynamo Kiev in their final group match.

Sure enough, Dinamo's domestic form picked up too setting Jurcic's side towards what they hope will be a 15th national title, with four victories and a just a single defeat under their new boss.

Relegation drama
This season's top goalscorer, Andrej Kramaric, netted 14 times to propel Lokomotiva Zagreb to third, which will be a best-ever finish should they maintain their status. Curiously, the 21-year-old has been a Dinamo player since the age of six but spent the season on loan at city rivals Lokomotiva and beat experienced marksmen such as Sammir (Dinamo Zagreb) and Leon Benko (NK Rijeka) to the crown.

While the title race may seem one sided, the relegation battle looks like going down to the wire. Just three points separate eighth-placed Istra 1961 Pula from bottom side NK Zagreb heading into the final of the 22 rounds, with Cibalia Vinkovci, Inter Zapresic and NK currently occupying the bottom three positions.

Four in cup contention

There is also still plenty to play in the cup after double winners for the past two seasons Dinamo were surprisingly eliminated in the second round by NK Zadar.

Of course next term Dinamo will once again be the team to beat in Croatia, with the rest of the league aiming to put an end to their domestic dominance. The Blues will be as determined as ever to make it nine titles in a row, though further improvement on the European stage will surely be on the agenda.