Viktoria Plzeň have never lost a UEFA Champions League qualifier – 13 and counting. UEFA.com looks at the Czech club's record run and considers the secret to their success.
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Viktoria Plzeň's 2-1 win at Maccabi Tel-Aviv in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League third qualifying round tie marked a 13th successive victory in qualifying – a competition record. UEFA.com ponders the possible reasons why the Czech champions have been able to string together such an impressive run.
"We are always fully focused and prepared," said midfielder Milan Petržela when asked about the club's winning streak. Indeed, even in the immediate aftermath of clinching the First League title last term, players and coaches immediately turned their attentions to the UEFA Champions League. "We missed out last season as we were eliminated in the [UEFA Europa League third qualifying round]," said defender Václav Procházka. "We missed the atmosphere and we are really looking forward to playing at this level again."
Since the first of their two group stage participations in 2011/12, Plzeň have accumulated great experience by playing against some of the continent's finest, including AC Milan and Barcelona. This has improved their game management, making them an outfit who remain on an even keel regardless of the situation.
Plzeň's 13-game winning sequence
Pyunik: 4-0, 5-1
Rosenborg: 1-0, 3-2
København: 3-1, 2-1
There is often a high player turnover at the Czech Republic's biggest clubs during the summer, making it tricky to achieve a fast start considering all the new faces needing to be blended in. Plzeň are more stable than most, however, while the likes of Petržela, midfielder Václav Pilař and defender František Rajtoral have returned in recent years following brief stints in Germany. Plzeň have also shown themselves to be well prepared for inevitable departures – the introduction of midfielder Tomáš Hořava to replace Bundesliga export Vladimír Darida a case in point.
The triumph at Maccabi Tel-Aviv came courtesy of two surprise inclusions in the lineup, forward Aidin Mahmutović and Petržela. "It was a masterful decision by Miroslav Koubek," Czech daily Sport remarked. Indeed, the 63-year-old coach's detailed homework paid off perfectly, ensuring he picked up from where Pavel Vrba – architect of the previous 12 victories – left off.
My home, my castle. The cosy, reconstructed Doosan Arena in Plzen's Štruncovy sady is a real fortress during the qualifiers. The fans back their team regardless of the scoreline, their support enhanced by an attacking style that is easy on the eye. "We need to continue with our streak and add three more wins [to reach the group stage]," said midfielder Ondřej Vaněk.