AGONA Profile: Viktoria Plzen, the plucky Czechs who love to spring a surprise
On Wednesday, Olympiacos were drawn against Viktoria Plzen in the UEFA Champions League second qualifying round, one of the most successful Czech teams in recent years. AGONAsport takes a closer look.
When the draw was made, many Olympiacos fans seemed delighted to avoid PSV Eindhoven, but make no mistake: Viktoria Plzen are no pushovers. Eight trophies since 2010, victories against Atletico Madrid, AS Roma, CSKA Moscow and Sporting Lisbon in European competition, qualification for the knockout phase of the UEFA Europa League....we’re not talking about a weak side here.
In fact, Viktoria Plzen have proven themselves to be a dogged, determined team in continental competitions. Czech club football isn’t elite, but despite their seemingly limited resources in comparison to larger European teams, Viktoria Plzen have made the knockout stages of the Europa League in the last two seasons while recording a number of impressive results. In the 2018/2019 UEFA Champions League, Plzen found themselves placed in a nightmarish group with Real Madrid, Roma and CSKA, but they managed to claim two wins and seven points to finish third. A victory against Roma at home and a surprise win over CSKA in the Russian capital were the highlights.
In the 2017/2018 Europa League, Plzen took Sporting Lisbon to extra time in the Last 16, but a late Portuguese goal denied them a famous quarter-final appearance. Plzen were sent packing by Dinamo Zagreb in the Round of 32 last season.
Formed in 1911, Viktoria Plzen certainly aren’t a new club, however all of their trophies have arrived since earning promotion back to the Czech First League in 2003. In 2010, Plzen claimed their maiden piece of silverware by winning the Czech Cup, and they then won the domestic championship in the following year. Between 2011 and 2019, Plzen have became Champions of the Czech Republic five occasions, with their last title coming in 2018.
Plzen finished in second position of the 2018/2019 Czech First League, five points behind first-placed Slavia Prague.
Interestingly, their players were only given two weeks off in the summer, and they’ve already played two friendlies in the off-season as they aim to fulfill their goal of qualifying for the Champions League group stage again. Plzen have signed Adam Hlousek (defender), Lukas Kalvach (midfielder) and Ondrej Mihalik (midfielder) in the transfer window so far.
Full name: Football Club Viktoria Plzen
Stadium: Doosan Arena, capacity 11,722
President: Adolf Sadek
Head coach: Pavel Vrba
Top level titles: 5 Czech First Leagues, 1 Czech Cup, 2 Czech Super Cups
This is Vrba’s second stint in charge of Viktoria Plzen. Vrba first managed the club from 2008 to 2013, before he coached the Czech national team for two years and then moved across to Russia with Anzhi Makhachkala. In truth, the 55-year-old struggled for consistent success elsewhere, and he returned to Plzen in July 2017 where he has once again earned excellent results. Vrba favours a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Overall, Vrba has overseen 91 matches at the helm of Plzen after returning in 2017, registering a large points-per-game average of 2.02. Vrba previously coached with Prerov, Banik Ostrava, Puchov, the under 20 Czech national team and MSK Zilina ahead of his maiden spell with Plzen.
27-year-old French forward, Jean-David Beauguel, is their main goalscoring threat. In January, Beauguel made the move to Plzen from Zlin upon the completion of his contract, subsequently scoring six goals in the second half of the campaign. In the attacking third, Tomas Chory is also a tough player for the opposing defence to handle, tallying 12 goals across all competitions in the 2018/2019 season.
Veteran left-back David Limbersky, now 35 years of age, has been a reliable figure for both Plzen and the Czech national team over the years. Although he’s entering the twilight zone of his career, Limbersky is still a key player on the left side of defence, starting practically every match and boasting plenty of experience at the top level.
First choice goalkeeper Ales Hruska caught the eye in the 2018/2019 Champions League with strong showings in the headline victories against CSKA and Roma.