CL Preview: Barcelona vs Viktoria Plzen

2:45pm EDT | (5:00pm EDT on Fox Soccer Channel)

So. Another Champions League game is upon us, and yet another Eastern European team you’ve probably never heard of before this game is our opponent.

Viktoria Plzen.

I admit that I have no idea who they are, other than they play their football in the good ol’ country of the Czech Republic. So, like any good previewer, I dug around for some information to help me and you learn more about this team (read: I Wikipedia’d the heck outta ‘em).

In this Google search lead quest for knowledge, one interesting I found about Viktoria is their club crest.

Look familiar? No? Well, that’s okay. The cule in me immediately notices the red and blue stripes at the top.

You may or may not know this, but Viktoria Plzen won their first ever Czech league title last season, and throughout the entirety of that season, they were referred to as ‘the Czech Barcelona’ both for the color of their kits and presumably for their style of play. (I say presumably because I haven’t actually seen them play, and YouTube can only tell me so much).

Before getting into the details of this style of play (and yes, the tactical formation diagrams make a comeback), a little back-story on our Czech visitors. (And no, I won’t be talking about the beer. That’s for the return leg).

They are somewhat of a fairy tale story. Founded in 1911, they are the boyhood club of famous Czech players (the now retired) Pavel Nedved and Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech. Known best for producing players and then selling them to bigger clubs both in the Czech Republic and abroad, they predictably struggled, bouncing between the first and second divisions. It was only until Slovakian coach Pavel Vrba took over in 2008 that Plzen’s fortunes began to look up. He took them by the scruff of the neck, immediately building a team that could and would compete for the title. The approach, which I will detail below, was unconventional but was vindicated in his second season as he led Plzen to the 2009/10 Czech Cup.

In their centenary year, they would go on to win the title for the first time in their history, and qualify for the UEFA Champions League group stage, also for the first time in their history, winning all six qualification matches against Pyunik Yerevan (against whom they recorded their biggest ever win in Europe (5-1 at home)), Rosenborg and the much fancied FC Copenhagen.

To put this qualification into perspective, the third round qualification tie for last year’s Europa League group stage was the last time they tried to qualify for a European competition and they were tonked 4-1 by Besiktas.

How They Will Line Up

“Any loss by less than five goals will be like a victory for us.”
— Petr Jiráček, Plzen midfielder.

The above quote pretty much sums up Plzen’s modus operandi for tomorrow’s match.

Viktoria’s base formation is a 4-2-3-1, but I doubt we’ll be seeing anything other than a 4-5-1 – with them packing the midfield while staying tight and narrow at the back.

Viktoria Plzen base formation
What we'll probably see

The team is build around this old man, Pavel Horvath (whose last name reminds me of Andrea Horwath. Sorry non-Ontarians who don’t get this reference), who’s 36 years old and conducts their play, forming one of the ‘2’ in the 4-2-3-1 formation. He is, apparently, terribly overweight, but his vision and pinpoint passing was brought out by Vrba and used to great effect. Surrounding Horvath are quick, technical, offensive players who use their pace and skill to run onto passes from Horvath, and either take on the defender or go for goal.

The other player of interest is one Václav Pilař who is known as ‘the Czech Messi’ and who is, funnily enough, basically a Messi fanboy. It was absolutely hilarious reading his pre-match comments on Ramzi (@footballmood)’s Twitter. For those who haven’t read it, you can see it here (just scroll down).

A cool tidbit about Plzen is they only have three players that aren’t Czech (and those three players are all Croatian).

For all the nice words about their fairy tale story, Plzen hasn’t done as well this season, having come back down to Earth after their high flying season last year. It appears as if their squad’s feeling the extra games they’ve had to play as a result of their great season, and as they haven’t reinforced much, if at all, this summer (only one player left, but he was duly replaced) their squad is quite thin. They sit bottom of the group, having tied 1-1 against BATE at home and lost 2-0 to Milan away. (See video below; Ibra needs to stop it with the ponytail thing he’s got going on. For real.)

So to answer the question that no one asked: they won’t be another Rubin Kazan.

On the Barca Side Of Things

We’re looking good. Fontas has been tied up until 2015 after signing a new contact, which is great because I was a bit worried about his lack of playing time. Good thing he was asked about it, his response being, and this is paraphrased, that he experienced the same thing in Barca B, and that the renewal gives him confidence and motivation to work for his place.

And that makes me happy.

In other news, both Fabregas and Alexis have been training lightly with the team, but both are unavailable for the match. (Though, Sport has speculated that Fabregas will be available for the Sevilla match. But it’s Sport so…).

Full squad: Valdés, Pinto, Alves, Puyol, Xavi, Villa, Iniesta, Messi, Thiago, Mascherano, Keita, Sergio Busquets, Pedro, Maxwell, Adriano, Abidal, Fontàs, Jonathan Dos Santos and Isaac Cuenca.

We want to win our next two CL matches – well, we always do, but these two especially – so we can qualify for the next round and rest up for the last two matches. Therefore, I expect a full strength lineup against a Plzen that hasn’t been doing so well of late.

The two question marks are whether we’ll play a 4-3-3 or a 3-4-3, and whether Puyol or Mascherano will start. Considering Plzen will be parking the airship, I’m going for the latter. As for Puyi or Masche, the reason I say that is because we have a big game against Sevilla this weekend.

Starting Xl (3-4-3):

sMasche didn’t play the last match, neither did Busi for that matter, so I’m putting them both in.

Subs: Keita, Adriano, and FONTAS PLEASE PEP.

Official prediction: 5-0, Messi x 3, Villa, Iniesta(!).

Because I’m mean like that. Manita! Manita! Manita!

(To read more about Plzen, this preview by Michal Petrak is ace. He evidently knows his Plzen).

In HUGE news

Can’t watch the match and don’t know where you can download it? Ever wanted to download that Zaragoza Messi Golazo match from 2009/10 but couldn’t because you didn’t have a fbtz account? Have no fear! I am pleased to give you: the official BFB fbtz account!

Reader Vj has kindly donated his fbtz account for BFB readers’ use. It’s open to everyone, so you don’t have to ask (not that you would :P) can email us at team@barcelonafootballblog.com, if you want to have it. [Blame blitzen for unleashing the paranoia I had kept under wraps].

For those who don’t know, fbtz is a fan run site which uploads links for people to download matches — and safely too. (i.e. no viruses that are purposely put in to ruin your computer). Fantastic place and I’d highly recommend making that place your go-to site for downloads. The only caveat is that the registration window is very short and unpredictable, which is why Vj giving us (read: you; I already have one) an account is so awesome.

Don’t forget to leave Vj your thanks in the comment section!

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39 Comments

  1. Xingxian
    October 18, 2011

    VJ!!!! THANK YOU!!!! <3

  2. adopted cule
    October 18, 2011

    Thank you Vj! Very cool of you to do that.

  3. October 18, 2011

    Messi echos what I was saying above in his presser today:

    “So for Plzeň, as with all our opponents, we will watch the video the coach has prepared, showing how they play and how we can beat them. Plzeň played great against AC Milan, especially in the first half before losing 2-0.

    “We want to win both matches against Plzeň to qualify for the next round; then we can focus on the league and cup ahead of [December’s] FIFA Club World Cup.”

    [via barcastuff facebook]

  4. blitzen
    October 18, 2011

    Don’t know about the wisdom of leaving Vj’s account info just out in the open like that for any random passers-by to use. There must be a reason fbtz only opens registration now and then. How about giving it out upon request by registered users of this site? Or maybe I’m just paranoid.

    Anyway, thanks for the preview. One of the Plzen players gave a pre-match interview where he went on and on and on and ON about the awesomeness of Barcelona in general and Messi in particular. Seriously fanboy stuff. 😆

    Also…BEER!!! 😀

    • October 18, 2011

      I debated whether or not to include (hence it being at the bottom), but I figured that people would share Vj’s account with their friends anyway, even if they emailed us to ask for it.

      But I guess we could also do it that way…

  5. BarcaGirl_Indo
    October 18, 2011

    I’ve emailed you, Kari…
    thanks Vj, you are aweeesooomeee…

    “Any loss by less than five goals will be like a victory for us.”
    – Petr Jiráček, Plzen midfielder.

    😆 yeah, that pretty much sums up their master plan…

  6. footballfan
    October 18, 2011

    We will qualify if we win the next two games but I guess the fifth game in Milan will be important too to determine the top position. I don’t want us to meet the big club at Round of 16.

    Also thanks VJ and BFB! 😀 I’ve been trying to register at fbtz for quite a while now without succeeding 🙁

  7. Gogah
    October 19, 2011

    How long till Alexis is back in action?

  8. irie_jamaican
    October 19, 2011

    Thank you VJ, thank you BFB and thank you Kari!

    • stowe
      October 19, 2011

      ha! looks like the premier league is the least competitive of the 9 biggest leagues. oh how media and publicity skew our understanding

  9. stowe
    October 19, 2011

    anyone know how to pronounce “Plzen?”

    • blitzen
      October 19, 2011

      Exactly as it is spelt. 😉

      Seriously, think “Pilsener” beer, with the “s” being a hard “z”, and you’re good.

  10. mom4
    October 19, 2011

    USA programming note:

    This is on live at 2:30 on—

    CSN (my channel 7)
    &
    CSNHD (my channel 251)
    &
    FOXDE (my channel 584 but I don’t pay enough to get it)

    Will there be a loveblob?

  11. Jim
    October 19, 2011

    Just had a look at the schedules for the weekend. RM, who played last night are on saturday but so are we who play tonight. This is known way in advance so why would we not be left until Sunday night ? Is there an unwritten rule that says we play on the same day as RM ? An extra day’s rest after CL action would be quite useful.

    • blitzen
      October 19, 2011

      Oh, don’t start getting all Mourinho about it. 😛

  12. rocky
    October 19, 2011

    Thanks Vj!!!!

  13. Calvin
    October 19, 2011

    Woke up this morning… 40 emails in my inbox about FBTZ.

    KARI!

    • Miguel
      October 19, 2011

      Hahahahaha!

  14. blitzen
    October 19, 2011

    Jonathan Wilson of the Guardian on why the English Premier League is not as competitive as people perceive it to be:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/blog/2011/oct/19/the-question-how-competitive-premier-league

    […]that there is a bigger gap between top and bottom of the Premier League and between fourth and fourth bottom in the Premier League than in any of the other nine leagues under consideration. Far from being the most competitive league in the world, in fact, it turns out to be the least.

    A fascinating read with numbers and stuff to back him up. Not that most EPL fans will take a blind bit of notice.

    • October 19, 2011

      Yeah, I Tweeted the hell out of that one. It’s so hilarious, because while some might quibble about the metrics, it would just be an attempt to discredit the findings. It turns out that in fact the Prem is like the SPL. I was laughing out loud on the train.

    • October 19, 2011

      The fact that it’s by JW and considers simple but practical stats to back it up gives it so much credibility. Gonna be shoving this down EPL fanboys throats in every argument. Thank you Jonathan Wilson!

    • mom4
      October 19, 2011

      SOooooo… if Spain is Scotland in the sun, then that makes England Scotland in the what? Fog?

  15. BarcaOwl
    October 19, 2011

    Happy liveblogging everyone. Hope it’ll be a great game tonight. I won’t be able to join you guys because the match is delayed over here.

    • mom4
      October 19, 2011

      Migs is gonna cry 🙁

    • Miguel
      October 19, 2011

      🙁

    • BarcaOwl
      October 19, 2011

      Sorry, Miguel. I owe you one apology drink of your choice, redeemable whenever you like.

      There’s no point in watching the match via the Net. Tried it once and the team looked like blaugrana colored ants.

      Should be able to join you guys for the liveblogs for Liga matches though. *mutters about TV station bias-ness for showing EE’s matches on schedule for Champions League games*

  16. nzm
    October 19, 2011

    There’s a piece on totalBarca today that is well-worth reading: http://www.totalbarca.com/2011/opinion-pieces/members-assembly-analysis-qatar-foundation-agreement/

    It explains how the Socis – who formed Consulta Qatar which is a group to find out more about the Qatar deal – were shouted down at the General Assembly, were not given time to speak their objections and were labelled as “traitors” by other Socis (aka Rosell’s mob).

    Consulta Qatar have a website here: http://www.consultaqatar.cat/p/com-participar-hi.html They need 7,000 Soci names to get a referendum which can force a full investigation into the QF deal.

    Two points that may help Socis make up their minds to support Consulta Qatar:

    1. On the Qatar Foundation websitea at: http://www.qf.org.qa/news-center/fcb-en

    “From 2006 the club has been adhered to the United Nations ‘Millennium Development Goals” and yields 0.7 percent of ordinary income from FC Barcelona to the Foundation for its projects. Since 2010, the players and coaching staff from the professional sections of the Club have also donated 0.5 percent of their wages to the Foundation.”

    So, the club is giving money back to the Qatar Foundation – a small percentage of profits AND from players and coaching staff wages – as well as an annual 2 million from a friendly game?

    2. For those who don’t speak Castellano, Google Translate this piece written by Pilar Rahola: http://www.periodistadigital.com/24por7/futbol/2011/05/18/qatar-foundation-barcelona-barca-rahola-islam.shtml

    Now – I’m not calling out Islam as being any worse than any other religion when it comes to its doctrines, but these are also values which are being upheld by the Qatar Foundation through their Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies and through Mufti Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Some of their statements, including that homosexuality should be punishable by death, go against the values of FC Barcelona.

    Sorry to go all “political” on you all, but I believe that the sponsorship deal is not all that it should be, and from just the financial aspect, it isn’t favourable to the club.

    If you’re a Soci who believes in the club values, please support the Consulta Qatar platform which is trying to find out just exactly what the complete deal is all about.

    • October 19, 2011

      What’s more important is to find out what happens if we do cancel the deal and if we can. If the repercussions are too great I’d rather live in a fools paradise.

  17. blitzen
    October 19, 2011

    And from the Not In A Million Years Department:

    Tottenham are rumoured to be interested in two of Barcelona’s most promising youngsters, right-back Martin Montoya and centre-back Marc Bartra.

    From the BBC.

  18. October 19, 2011

    Hehe. Sorry, Colin! 😛

    Hot damn! Looks like people have been dying for a fbtz account. I’ll try and get to you all ASAP. Don’t forget to leave your thanks for Vj here, even if you’re a lurker!

  19. blitzen
    October 19, 2011

    Barça startingXI: Valdés ; Alves, Mascherano, Abidal, Adriano ; Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta ; Pedro, Villa, Messi

    Barcelona bench: Pinto, Puyol, Fontàs, Maxwell, Thiago, Keita and Cuenca

    Cuenca made the bench! I hope we do well enough that he could get a few minutes.

    I hope Pep isn’t making a mistake starting Dani Alves, who is one yellow away from a suspension. I would have preferred to play Adriano as RB instead, to make sure Dani will be available for the next game against Milan.

    • mom4
      October 19, 2011

      You can’t get too much better than this lineup.
      I’m picturing a 1-8-1 3-4-3!

    • October 19, 2011

      Nah. Our next game is against Plzen away, actually. [On November 1st]

  20. October 19, 2011

    Thank you VJ!!!!
    Shot y’all an email.

    I’ve missed probably over half of the games so far this season because of college. : ( Not fun. Hopefully I can catch the second half of this one. Visca el Barça!

  21. ak
    October 23, 2011

    thanks a lot, vjaaaaay!!

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