Jakub Dovalil has likened the playing style of Russia, the Czech Republic's opponents in the UEFA European Under-21 Championship play-offs, to that of holders Spain.
The Czechs cruised through Group 3 with six victories in eight matches and have not lost a qualifier, play-off games included, since September 2008. They also garnered more points in the same number of fixtures than Friday's opponents Russia, who won just one of their last four en route to topping Group 6.
That might suggest Dovalil's team have the edge heading into the first leg in Jablonec nad Nisou, but the coach is not convinced. "Russia are slight favourites," he said. "Their attack is better than their defence. Some of their defenders do not play regularly in the Russian league, so they might have problems with match fitness.
"Their forwards are high quality. They remind me of Spanish players because they keep the ball for a long time and wait for the right opportunities."
Dovalil is without Josef Hušbauer, Vladimír Darida and Matěj Vydra, all of whom have been included in Michal Bílek's senior squad preparing for FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Malta and Bulgaria. Jan Chramosta, the Czechs' nine-goal qualifying round leading scorer, has a long-term knee injury.
In addition, there are concerns over FK Jablonec goalkeeper Roman Valeš (knee) and Vitesse defender Tomáš Kalas, who sustained a knock on Eredivisie duty last weekend. Should Valeš miss out, FC Hradec Králové's Tomáš Koubek is likely to deputise.
While Chramosta's absence is a blow, the form of Stanislav Tecl – blazing a trail with David Lafata at the head of the Czech First League scoring chart – inspires confidence, the FC Vysočina Jihlava striker having netted in each of his last five outings for club and country.
Czech Republic squad
Roman Valeš (FK Jablonec), Tomáš Koubek (FC Hradec Králové), Martin Šustr (SK Sigma Olomouc).
Pavel Čmovš (NEC Nimegen), Michal Frydrych (FC Baník Ostrava), Tomáš Holeš (FC Hradec Králové), Tomáš Kalas (Vitesse), Jan Lecjaks (BSC Young Boys), Filip Novák (FK Jablonec), Milan Nitrianský (SK Slavia Praha).
Vlastimil Daníček (1. FC Slovácko), Marek Hanousek (FC Viktoria Plzeň), Jan Kopic (FK Jablonec), Ladislav Krejčí (AC Sparta Praha), Lukáš Mareček (sc Heerenveen), Martin Pospíšil (SK Sigma Olomouc), Ondřej Vaněk (FK Jablonec), Egon Vůch (FK Teplice).
Václav Kadlec (AC Sparta Praha), Stanislav Tecl (FC Vysočina Jihlava), Tomáš Wágner (1.FK Příbram).
Nikolai Zabolotni (FC Rostov), Stanislav Kritsuk (FC Akademiya Tolyatti), Aleksandr Filtsov (FC Lokomotiv Moskva).
Maksim Belyaev (FC Lokomotiv Moskva), Taras Burlak (FC Lokomotiv Moskva), Maksim Zhestokov (FC Rubin Kazan), Ivan Knyazev (FC Kuban Krasnodar), Arseni Logashov (FC Anji Makhachkala), Zaurbek Pliev (FC Alania Vladikavkaz), Ibragim Tsallagov (PFC Krylya Sovetov Samara), Nikita Chicherin (FC Dinamo Moskva), Georgi Schennikov (PFC CSKA Moskva).
Shota Bibilov (FC Volga Nizhny Novgorod), Yuri Kirillov (FC Ufa), Magomed Ozdoev (FC Lokomotiv Moskva), Sergei Petrov (PFC Krylya Sovetov), Anton Sosnin (FC Kuban Krasnodar), Oleg Shatov (FC Anji Makhachkala), Pavel Yakovlev (FC Spartak Moskva), Denis Cheryshev (Real Madrid CF), Aleksandr Zotov (FC Tom Tomsk, on loan from FC Spartak Moskva).
Artem Delkin (PFC Krylya Sovetov Samara), Maksim Kannunikov (FC Zenit St Petersburg), Fedor Smolov (FC Anji Makhachkala).
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