FC Viktoria Plzeň coach Pavel Vrba is hoping for a happy birthday when his team take on Club Atlético de Madrid in their final UEFA Europa League Group B game on Thursday.
"A year ago on my birthday we played against AC Milan and we drew 2-2 after scoring two goals in the final minutes of the game, so I hope this time it could be the same and we will get at least a point or defeat Atlético," the former MŠK Žilina trainer told UEFA.com.
Both teams are already assured of their places in the round of 32, but first place in the section is still up for grabs; Plzeň must win, while their Spanish visitors need only a draw. "I have always considered Atlético to be favourites for top spot," said Vrba. "They have confirmed that by spreading the load across the whole squad. However, we learned in our first game against each other [a 1-0 defeat] that their quality is tremendous whatever their lineup."
Plzeň, though, have won all five of their home games in this season's competition. "It is an interesting statistic and we are proud of it," added Vrba. "
I think we learned our lessons in the Champions League. Our self-confidence grew and we earned the respect of our opponents."
Another notable statistic from Plzeň's campaign is that they have scored four goals within 15 minutes of the interval, shedding a positive light on Vrba's half-time wisdom. "Maybe other coaches do not speak loud enough," he said. "We might have been a bit lucky, but the fact shows the ability of the team to cope with an unfavourable score."
Vrba's team have style as well as obvious substance. "I have coached teams of all categories in my career, from the youngest boys to adults," added the coach. "I have always required precise, straightforward passing and it has always worked. I used to be a kind of tough defender but as a coach I prefer a style that I was not a master of myself."
Aside from success at the Stadion města Plzně, Vrba's birthday wishlist is clear. "We have been reconstructing our house, so my wife may give me some useful tool as a drill or something like that," he said. "But from my players I want a decent performance and a good result."
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