Created on 22-10-2013 at 15:35 PM
Bayern meet Viktoria Plzen at the Allianz Arena on Wednesday night, with the roles of favourites and underdogs clearly defined. Plzen are reigning Czech champions, but have yet to put points on the board in the Champions League this season. We take a closer look at the club in our exclusive profile of Viktoria Plzen.
Bayern’s Champions League opponents were founded in 1911 as SK Viktoria Plzeň. The name has changed many times down the years, but the club adopted its current name of FC Viktoria Plzeň in 1992. Plzen is a city of 168,000 inhabitants in West Bohemia, located some 100 km to the south-west of Czech capital Prague.
The club were promoted to the Czechoslovak top flight in 1931 but spent a lengthy period as a so-called elevator club, oscillating between the first and second divisions. Starting in the late 2000s, Viktoria steadily gained quality and ambition, culminating in a maiden Czech championship in 2011. The men from Plzen claimed a second Gambrinus Liga title in 2013, and also won the domestic knockout cup in 1971 und 2010.
Viktoria play their home games at the compact Doosan Arena, with a capacity now restored to 11,700 after modernisation in 2011. However, the ground is relatively tiny by Champions League standards, and Bayern will receive fewer than 1,000 tickets for the away leg of the double header on 5 November. In their one previous appearance in the Champions League group stage two years ago, Viktoria switched their home fixtures to the Eden Arena in Prague, venue for this year’s UEFA Super Cup, but that was largely due to the renovation work at their real home ground.
Viktoria Plzen made their Champions League debut in 2011, where they finished a commendable third in a group with Barcelona, AC Milan und BATE Borisov. They qualified for the Europa League but exited in the Round of 32 against Schalke, although the second leg of the tie went to extra time. Last season, Viktoria performed even more impressively by finishing top of a Europa League group including Atlético Madrid, before going on to knock out SSC Napoli 5-0 on aggregate. They finally fell to Fenerbahce in the last sixteen.
Current league position:
Viktoria were held 1-1 at home by second from bottom Slavia Prague last Saturday. It does mean the champions are still undefeated after 11 matches, but they lie second in the standings to Sparta Prague, who have already opened a six-point gap.
The star at Viktoria Plzen is the coach. When Pavel Vrba first took the reins on 8 October 2008, he took over nothing better than an average mid-table side, but Vrba has transformed the club’s fortunes over the last five years. No Czech top-flight coach has lasted as long as Vrba, who has now been in charge for 152 league matches and is nicknamed: “the Czech [Sir Alex] Ferguson“.
Coach Vrba has tended to favour players discarded and deemed superfluous to requirements by other clubs, especially Sparta Prague. The leading example is Prague-born captain Pavel Horváth, still a highly influential leader in midfield at the age of 38. “He’s a super player,” said Pep Guardiola respectfully when quizzed about the veteran on Tuesday. Winger Frantisek Rajtoral is level with the club captain on three goals so far this term. In the past, former world-class star Pavel Nedved and current Chelsea keeper Petr Cech started out in the Viktoria youth section.
Vrba prefers his Plzen side to go on the attack, transitioning rapidly after winning the ball in defence. This has proved a crowd-pleaser, as the Doosan Arena is often sold out, a rare occurrence in Czech professional football. However, it remains to be seen whether Plzen will dare to come out and attack last season’s treble winners.