FC Viktoria Plzeň captain Pavel Horváth has warned that the Czech title holders can take nothing for granted as they prepare to welcome FC København in the UEFA Champions League play-offs, despite a 3-1 away-leg advantage.
Strikes from Václav Pilař, Martin Fillo and a Sölvi Ottesen own goal have put Plzeň in the box seat as they aim to grace the group stage for the first time, and Horváth says they have nothing to fear but themselves. "We began in great style, but there are another 90 minutes ahead of us," said the 36-year-old. "We must be really focused; otherwise we will pay dearly."
København have cause to be feared. They became the first Danish side to reach the round of 16 in this competition last season and will take heart from their last visit to the Czech capital, to face AC Sparta Praha in the 2009/10 UEFA Europa League group stage: they won 3-0. Roland Nilsson, who replaced Ståle Solbakken as coach in June, is confident that with more support for forward Dame N'Doye his side can repeat the feat.
"This time we're going to play two strikers," he promised. "We have to look at things a bit differently to how we usually do. We have to be courageous and gamble a little." Morten Nordstrand, who could play alongside N'Doye, added: "
We have to go score so our attacking approach has to work. On the other hand we cannot afford to concede too many – we need a controlled attacking effort."
FCK edged a 1-0 win at AC Horsens on Saturday, when Plzeň flexed their own offensive muscles with a 4-2 victory away to FK Dukla Praha. The versatile Petr Jiráček broke the deadlock, well rested after serving suspension in the first leg in Copenhagen. He returns to European action on Wednesday, as does striker Marek Bakoš, scorer of five goals in four qualifiers already this term.
If three years ago somebody had said we'd be here now, playing a decisive game to reach the Champions League in front of a full house, I'd have said they were crazy," said coach Pavel Vrba, who rested Horváth, Milan Petržela and Marián Čišovský at the weekend. "This game can put Plzeň on another level."
The majority of the 20,000 fans at Plzeň's temporary home at Prague's Eden Stadium and thousands more watching on a giant screen back in downtown Pilsen hope it will.
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