@TheCzechUp: An introduction to Viktoria Plsen
- 16 September 2013 10:50
- Posted by @TheCzechUp
Experts on Czech football and well worth a follow on Twitter @TheCzechUp provide us with a view on Tuesday's Champions League opponents...
Viktoria Plzeň have come a long way since they last played English opposition. Then it was 1959 and the visitors to the famous brewing city were Grimsby Town, now over fifty-years later the red carpet is being prepared for the arrival of Manchester City.
In the years between Viktoria have often floated around in obscurity, yo-yoing between the top two divisions and rarely making a substantial impact on Czechoslovakian football that was, at the time, dominated by club’s in the administrative capitals of Prague and Bratislava. There was one venture into the Cup Winners Cup as a result of winning the Czech Cup in 1971, but apart from that, they achieved very little.
That has all changed however with wise investment, unquestionable talent and a bit of luck all combining Viktoria Plzeň stand atop of Czech football and are about to embark on their second Champions League campaign in three seasons.
Since taking charge in Western Bohemia, Pavel Vrba has steadily masterminded Viktoria’s rise. The pragmatic 49-year old had already picked up domestic silverware and Champions League experience with Žilina before joining Plzeň in 2008. The Czech Cup came first, at the end of his first full season in charge, with a maiden Gambrinus Liga title following the year after.
Generally lining up in a 4-2-3-1, the most trusted lieutenant on the pitch is the colourful character of Pavel Horváth. At 38, Horváth can be described as a well travelled veteran as his career has seen stints with Sporting Lisbon and Japanese club Vissel Kobe amongst others, before having a monumental renaissance in Plzeň. With a permanent smile etched onto his portly face, watching him tussle with Yaya Toure will be a bizarre and fascinating sight to behold in the coming fixtures. Alongside Horváth in central midfield will, probably, be Tomáš Hořava, a summer signing from Sigma Olomouc. An elegant ball-player, Hořava has adapted well to his new surroundings, ensuring that the loss of former midfield lynchpin Vladimír Darida has been negated as much as possible.
With twenty-one goals scored already in the Gambrinus Liga and a further twenty from the Champions League qualifiers, Viktoria, as you would expect, see attack as the best form of defence and will endeavour to carry on that mentality in the European spheres. Strikers Stanislav Tecl, Tomáš Wágner and midfielder Daniel Kolář have collectively shared responsibility for the goals so far, though somewhat ironically centre-back Marián Čišovský is their top scorer in Europe with five goals in six appearances, but the Slovak is expected to miss Tuesday’s clash due to injury.
On Friday evening Viktoria played out a 1-1 draw with Slovan Liberec, a result that keeps Plzeň (at the time of writing) top of the league and unbeaten since the competitive start of the season. Daniel Kolář opened the scoring before one-time Hammer Radoslav Kováč equalised for Liberec who remain third.
The stated aim for the Czech club is to equal their points haul from their first entry to the Champions League when they picked up five points and, to use a cliché, they will have to turn the Doosan Arena into a claustrophobic fortress in order to achieve that this time around as they are in a significantly tougher group this time around.
They are the smallest team in Group D by some margin, and their exploits to date have flown under the radar. In recent memory they have defeated Atlético Madrid and Napoli whilst have given AC Milan and Schalke an almighty fright. Plzeň won’t fear anybody.