Although they have one foot in next year's finals in Poland and Ukraine, the Croatians will take nothing for granted against the team that knocked them out of the Euro 2008 quarter-finals after equalising with the last kick of extra time.
With the score 1-1 after 120 minutes, the Turks won the penalty shootout and sent their fans into raptures in Vienna's Ernst Happel stadium but they were powerless against a galvanised Croatia side in Istanbul on Friday.
"I don't think we will ever be able to get the 2008 defeat completely out of our system but we have already forgotten the game in Istanbul," Bilic told reporters.
"The first thing we all said in the dressing room was that we are only halfway through our task because we face a difficult 90 minutes on our own turf. "We will head into the game confident after earning a three-goal cushion in the Turk Telekom Arena, where all the pieces came together for us."
Although he will miss suspended defender Vedran Corluka and midfielder Tomislav Dujmovic, Bilic has plenty to choose from in a squad eager to kickstart a party in Zagreb's Maksimir stadium.
Danijel Pranjic will stand in for Corluka at left back while Ognjen Vukojevic should step in as the holding midfielder and Borussia Dortmund's in-form forward Ivan Perisic could be preferred to veteran striker Ivica Olic.
Unlike Bilic, his Turkey counterpart Guus Hiddink has limited options with four key players suspended and defender Giray Kacar sidelined with a groin strain.
The under-fire Dutchman will be forced to make wholesale changes after Arda Turan, Sabri Sarioglu, Emre Belozoglu and Hakan Balta earned yellow cards which rule them out of the return leg. Criticised by Turkish media for a tepid performance, Hiddink was also lambasted by Atletico Madrid forward Arda, who was quoted as saying by the Milliyet newspaper that the coach's tactics had invited the rout.
"Hiddink's choices opened the way for this result, we had a problem up front in particular because our boss played (Burak) Yilmaz alone up front and we were ineffective in front of goal," Arda was quoted as saying. "We should have played with at least three players in attack but our boss showed timidity based on our opponents' place in the world rankings.
"If your boss managing you from the touchline doesn't trust his footballers, you are already starting the match 1-0 down." Croatia – ranked 12th in the world – took a second-minute lead through Olic in the first leg and Turkey, who are ranked 26th by FIFA, never looked like coming back after Mario Mandzukic made it 2-0 with a header from a tight angle. Corluka silenced the normally raucous home crowd in Istanbul with the third shortly after the break but Bilic is now wary of complacency creeping in.
"It will not be a return leg with the makings of a friendly match because Turkey are a good team and they are coming here to get a result," he said.
"Football is unpredictable, we have seen that already and we will have to play even better than in the first leg."
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