“The opponents of their dreams”: Plzeň draw big guns in Champions League

The draw for the group stage of the Champions League

Viktoria Plzeň got some of world football’s biggest names in Thursday’s draw for the group stage of the Champions League: Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Inter Milan. But do the Czech side have any chance of not coming last in Group C? And how much of an achievement was it to qualify for the competition for the third time? I spoke to soccer journalist Ondřej Zlámal.

“It’s a fantastic achievement – a little bit unexpected, but well-deserved.

“I admire the work they have done, especially the coach Michal Bílek; he is a really underestimated coach.

“I was impressed by how he managed the [qualifying] games.

“He came out in the last game against Qarabag with a perfect move, with a perfectly timed substitution – it was a coaching masterpiece.

“And there’s a generation of new Plzeň players who just stick together.

“The teamwork works there and it is tremendous what they have done.

“It was very difficult, they eliminated three very difficult opponents.

“Sheriff [Tiraspol] was really a team with a lot of quality. And also Qarabag – some of the players in Qarabag were excellent.

“But the teamwork and the team spirit worked and I am really impressed by what they have done so far.”

The draw for the group stage of the Champions League | Photo: Emrah Gurel,  ČTK/AP

Obviously they have drawn some very big guns in the group stage: Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Inter Milan. Will the club be happy with that draw, or would they have preferred lesser teams?

“From what I’ve heard so far, they are really, really happy.

“These are the opponents of their dreams.

“You know, to play against Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Inter Milan – it can happen to you once in your life, once in your career.

“Many Czech footballers will never play against such giant teams.

“This is how they see it: For them to play against Bayern Munich… it’s not far away actually – it’s probably closer than going for a game to Ostrava [laughs].

“It’s not far so a lot of fans will travel to Munich. They will find a way how to enjoy that.

“I think Plzeň can make trouble at home, at their home stadium, and they will try to approach the game as underdogs.

“But I’ve never noticed anybody saying they would like to play against Sporting Lisbon or Maccabi Haifa, because we would have a chance to qualify.

“They are just really happy they have such a strong group.”

But is it almost a foregone conclusion that they will come last in the group? Look at the other names. Is it inevitable Plzeň will come fourth?

“You are probably right. It would be crazy to think something else.

“Because with these three big clubs, two of them will qualify so one will have to go to the Europa League [third-place finishers].

“So they can’t afford to lose points against Plzeň, or to play with substitutes.

“There will be no clear winner after three matches, I don’t believe.

“Maybe Bayern will dominate, but we never know.

“It’s really, really difficult [laughs].

“It’s really difficult, but I don’t think they are scared.

“I also don’t think that this compact and tactically very, very mature team will be like real underdogs and will concede many, many goals.

“They will be good contenders, in all the games.”

Author: Ian Willoughby
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