After three rounds of Group C, Viktorie Plzeň’s footballers have a full nine points and already on Thursday they can decide on progressing to the spring elimination phase of the European Conference League. In the Doosan Arena, they will welcome the Croatian champions from Dinamo Zagreb, whom they defeated 1:0 at their stadium 14 days ago.
From the training session of Viktoria Plzeň before the match with Dinamo Zagreb
| Video: Diary/Zdeněk Soukup
“We won on hot ground against a tough opponent, so the positive lessons from the match prevail,” Pilsen coach Miroslav Koubek returned to Croatia.
Now he and his charges will face the same opponent at home and, under certain circumstances, he can already celebrate after the match. “We can count. We have nine points, but the same number are still in the game,” the Viktoria coach reminded that the competition is only halfway through.
Source: Diary/Zdeněk Soukup
“And we know we have to add some more points. Nine is not enough, it is not enough to advance. Now we have the first option. I believe that we will do everything to gain a point and consolidate our position at the top of the group,” added Koubek, who in Sunday’s league match at Slavia lost another striker.
For the experienced Matěj Vydra, the autumn ended prematurely due to an injury at Slavia. “It’s a complication. We had four point guards, with which we could use various variants in the layout, but also alternating. Now our room for maneuver has narrowed, we have the last two left,” admitted the 72-year-old coach from Pilsen.
Against Zagreb, it can be expected that they will use fresh representative Choré, Kliment will be ready on the bench and maybe one of the youngsters from the third league B team. “I can’t imagine what would happen if there was another blackout. Of course, we would have to consult each other, but now we have gotten into a more tense relationship in those positions,” added Koubek.
A look at history. Do you remember how the Victorians beat Dinamo Zagreb?
While his team goes into the match encouraged by the victory over Slavia Prague, where Plzeň won for the first time since 2014, the opponent in the Croatian league saved a 1:1 draw in Varaždin only in the set time. “But Dinamo dominated. It was a level better team than the home team,” pointed out coach Koubek, who watched the match on video, just like the previous matches of Zagreb.
“He defended Varaždin honestly, such matches are difficult. But Dinamo has confirmed its quality, mainly the individual technique of the players is high, and this is the source of a very good combination,” pointed out Koubek, adding that the Croatian champions are currently finding it difficult to score goals. There is a noticeable absence of gunner Petkovič. “They don’t score goals. It would be good if it lasted a little longer,” smiled the coach from Pilsen.
Celebrities and students will be cheering
There will be former footballers, fans from other athletes or artists in the audience – singer Marek Ztracený or actor Martin Stránský. But perhaps also the football hopes of clubs from the region.
This time, small football players will fill the sector intended for visiting fans, because those Dinamo Zagreb they are prohibited from entering the stadium. Thus, Plzeňská Viktoria took advantage of UEFA’s permission and offered these places to pupils. “The interest was really great, which makes us very happy,” praised the director general of the Pilsen club, Adolf Šádek.
A dream evening for the young goalkeeper Baier. A key intervention and a clean sheet
Young footballers from Horažďovice, Pilsen Petřín, Klášter, Nalžovské Hory, Blatnice, Bolešin, Merklín or Horní Bříza will be in the audience. “I believe that they will enjoy the match, join the other fans and together they will drive us to the next stage,” declared the Viktorian player Pavel Šulc.
He, Robin Hranáč and most recently goalkeeper Viktor Baier are proof that it is possible to rise from a small club to the top. “They also come from the region and have fulfilled their big dream. I believe that for others it will be a huge motivation for further work,” added Šádek.
Will they all celebrate progressing to the Conference League’s spring knock-out stage together?