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Schalke look to trample Plzeň dreams

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar's equaliser in the Czech Republic has left FC Schalke 04 in a strong position as FC Viktoria Plzeň come to Gelsenkirchen for a UEFA Europa League round of 32 decider.

Plzeň captain Pavel Horváth (left) challenges Raúl González in the first leg
Plzeň captain Pavel Horváth (left) challenges Raúl González in the first leg ©Getty Images

FC Schalke 04 will look to set up a UEFA Europa League round of 16 tie with FC Steaua Bucureşti or FC Twente as they bring FC Viktoria Plzeň back to Gelsenkirchen with the tie level at 1-1.

• Klaas-Jan Huntelaar struck (75) to deny the Czech champions a first-leg home win after Vladimír Darida's volley (22) looked set to reward an enterprising performance.

Previous meetings
• Schalke's nine games against Czech sides have ended W5 D2 L2 (W4 D0 L0 at home).

• Plzeň captain Pavel Horváth featured in Schalke's last defeat by a Czech club. His AC Sparta Praha team traded 1-0 home wins with Schalke before winning the 1998/99 UEFA Cup first round tie 5-4 on penalties, Horváth converting the first of them.

• Huub Stevens, then as now, was Schalke coach − it was his first encounter with a Czech club − with Plzeň assistant coach Jíří Skála also on the pitch for Sparta.

• Stevens' Roda JC team got the better of FC Slovan Liberec in the 2005 UEFA Intertoto Cup third round, prevailing on away goals following home (0-0) and away (1-1) draws.

• Plzeň's only previous game against German opponents was a dispiriting encounter with FC Bayern München in the first round of the 1971/72 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup; they lost 1-0 at home and 6-1 in Munich, still their heaviest defeat in UEFA competition.

Match background
• UEFA Champions League semi-finalists last season, Schalke last played in the round of 32 in this competition in 2005/06, beating RCD Espanyol en route to losing to Sevilla FC in the semi-finals. They had lost to FC Shakhtar Donetsk in the round of 32 the previous season.

• Schalke are unbeaten in eight European games − five wins and three draws − since a shock 2-0 loss at HJK Helsinki in the play-off first leg.

• This is Plzeň's second UEFA Europa League campaign; they were eliminated at the first hurdle in last season's third qualifying round by Beşiktaş JK. It is also the Czech champions' first experience of playing European football in the spring.

Team facts
• Plzeň's Jakub Hora turns 21 on the day of the game, while Schalke's Kyriakos Papadopoulos celebrates his 20th birthday.

• Horváth faced Hans Sarpei when his Sparta Praha side lost 1-0 to Bayer 04 Leverkusen in the 2006/07 group stage.

• Raúl González played in Real Madrid CF's 3-2 win at Sparta in the 2001/02 UEFA Champions League second group stage.

• Huub Stevens replaced Ralf Rangnick as Schalke coach after matchday one. The Dutchman coached Schalke from 1996 to 2002, winning the 1997 UEFA Cup and German Cups in 2001 and 2002. Originally a defender for Fortuna Sittard and PSV Eindhoven, the Dutchman was named by fans as the coach of Schalke's team of the century in 1999.

• Czech pair Jiří Němec and Radoslav Látal both featured in Stevens' Schalke side that won the 1997 UEFA Cup.

• Plzeň's Pavel Vrba had a modest career as a defender, but as a coach worked his way up from the youth department at FC Baník Ostrava to first team assistant. He then led FK Matador Púchov and MŠK Žilina, where he won a Slovakian title, and joined Plzeň in 2008, winning the Czech Cup in 2009/10 and the club's maiden league title the following season.

Round of 16
• The winners of this tie will take on Steaua or Twente in the round of 16 on 8 and 15 March, playing the second leg at home.

• Plzeň have met neither of their potential opponents in UEFA competition.

• Schalke have met both; they took on Steaua in this season's group stage, drawing 0-0 in Romania then winning 2-1 at home, and played Twente in the 2008/09 UEFA Cup group stage, losing 2-1 in Enschede.

Competition statistics
• An updated version of the UEFA Europa League Statistics Handbook is available here: