FC Viktoria Plzeň are aiming to spring a surprise when they visit Beşiktaş JK in their UEFA Europa League third qualifying round tie on Thursday. The modest Czech side, back in Europe almost 40 years after their one previous taste of continental competition, will arrive on the banks of the Bosporus buoyed by a successful start in their domestic league – and an encouraging first-leg display, despite the eventual 1-1 outcome.
Viktoria had to play last week's game at the Letná stadium in Prague, with their own stadium ineligible for UEFA matches, but though their supporters were outnumbered by Beşiktaş fans, they were the better side particularly in the first half. The pity for Pavel Vrba's team is they had only David Limberský's goal to reflect their superiority before Matías Delgado levelled the scores with a penalty on the stroke of half-time.
That away goal – not to mention a greater European pedigree – leaves Beşiktaş clear favourites to progress but Viktoria striker Jan Rezek remains optimistic. "Our five scoring chances in the first game were no coincidence. We showed our strength and [playing in front of] a sold-out stadium with a big crowd can only improve our performance," said Rezek, who previously played in Europe for AC Sparta Praha and FK Teplice.
Yet Plzeň playmaker Pavel Horváth sounded a note of caution, warning his colleagues to expect a hot atmosphere as he recalled his own experiences from a season at another Istanbul club, Galatasaray AŞ. "We have seen it on TV, but it is many times worse in person," he said. The experienced Horváth swapped shirts after the first leg with Beşiktaş's Ricardo Quaresma, a former colleague at Sporting Clube de Portugal, and explained afterwards: "He was only 17 and we only played around five games together, so I was pleased he remembers me at all. He was satisfied [with the result] but I want to make it more difficult for him on Thursday."
Viktoria have begun the Czech First League campaign well, taking seven points from three games to move top of the table. They warmed up for the trip to Turkey by defeating FC Bohemians 1905 Praha 2-1 but coach Vrba is unhappy they are still to register a clean sheet. Plzeň have shipped five goals in three league outings and cannot afford to concede cheap goals on Thursday. That said, their record on the road in Europe does not augur well – their only previous away match brought a crushing 6-1 defeat at FC Bayern München in the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in 1971.
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