Pavel Vrba says he is determined to leave FC Viktoria Plzeň on a high as he targets a victory over PFC CSKA Moskva that would see his team pip the Russian side to third.
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Pavel Vrba says he is determined to leave FC Viktoria Plzeň a parting gift as he prepares to welcome PFC CSKA Moskva for his last game in charge before taking the reins of the Czech Republic national team.
It is a battle for third place in Group D and a UEFA Europa League spot, and CSKA need only avoid defeat to ensure survival in European competition. They won 3-2 when the teams met on matchday two and Vrba says his team are ready for the counterattacking game that cost his team in Russia. He did not speak directly of his impending departure but there was a strong undercurrent. "We were [in the European knockout stages] twice," he said. "I hope Plzeň will be there again."
Pavel Vrba, coach
The situation means this is pretty much a play-off tie. We lost the away game 3-2, not a bad result and one that gives us a decent chance of progress. With our fans behind us and the quality in our squad we will manage to overturn the deficit and finish third.
I expect that CSKA will come out with the home result in mind and focus on watchful defence in a tactical lineup like they used against Bayern and Manchester City, relying on fast counterattacks. We have to avoid conceding the opening goal and pay attention to the exceptionally fast-footed CSKA players. This will be key to our success.
We could become the first Czech team to qualify for the spring part of European competition for three successive years, but extending our campaign is a great motivation in itself. The players remember the atmosphere of those knockout ties and we all know that only extraordinary clubs are in the draw. We were there twice and I hope Plzeň will be there again. I will give my all to achieve that.
[Ahmed] Musa, [Alan] Dzagoev and [Keisuke] Honda are CSKA's most dangerous players going forward. In the first game in St Petersburg we conceded after bad passes in our attacking half, which our opponents used to set up effective counters. We paid dearly for our mistakes.
Plzeň were not in action at the weekend after rounding off their domestic campaign on 1 December with a 2-0 home win against 1. FK Příbram. They go into the winter break second in the Czech First League, five points behind AC Sparta Praha. Their next league outing is away to FC Baník Ostrava on 22 February.
• The crowd gave Vrba a standing ovation before the Příbram win as it was the coach's last league game in charge of the club. He will take the reins of the Czech Republic on a four-year deal in January, ending a successful five-and-a-half-year spell with a club that had not won a major honour before his arrival. The CSKA game is his last as Plzeň coach.
Vrba says he has a full squad to choose from.
Leonid Slutski, coach
A tough match awaits. Plzeň presented themselves in a very good light and played very well in the first game against us, so we know it will not be easy. But our aim is to get a result that will take us into the Europa League. It is one of two prestigious European competitions and a priority for us. We are very motivated to get the right result.
Regardless of what is expected from us, we are not going to give our opponents the initiative and just defend a one-goal advantage – it is not that big. We know very well that Plzeň have a squad full of quality footballers and they are capable of dangerous attacking play. In the Czech league they usually have about 60% of possession. We want to be proactive straight from the kick-off.
Friday: FC Kuban Krasnodar 1-0 CSKA (Jędrzejczyk 63)
Akinfeev; Ignashevich, A Berezutski, Nababkin (Karavaev 76), Schennikov; Wernbloom, Milanov, Honda (Dzagoev 38), Tošić, Zuber (Elm 72); Musa.
• Aleksei Berezutski made his 400th CSKA appearance as the Army Men failed to win for the third successive fixture in all competitions, losing two and drawing one.
Seydou Doumbia (undisclosed), Vasili Berezutski (knee), Mário Fernandes (knee) and Aleksandrs Cauņa (toe) have all been sidelined but Honda is available for selection.
• CSKA's only previous meeting with Czech opposition prior to this season came when they took four points off Sparta Praha en route to winning their group in the 2010/11 UEFA Europa League.