A. Académica de Coimbra return to Europe after an absence of four decades with a trip to a FC Viktoria Plzeň side that rubbed shoulders with the great and the good last season.
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Impressive in the UEFA Champions League group stage last season, FC Viktoria Plzeň kick off Group B against an A. Académica de Coimbra side back in Europe after a 40-year absence.
• The sides have not met before; indeed, neither team has previously faced outfits from their opponent's country.
• In the 21 previous UEFA competition meetings between clubs from the two nations, Czech sides have the upper hand with the record W9 D5 L7 (W6 D3 L1 at home; W3 D2 L6 in Portugal). In addition, Vitória SC beat FC Baník Ostrava 2-1 on aggregate in the 1969/70 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, the non-UEFA affiliated precursor to the UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League.
• The only previous meeting between Czech and Portuguese sides in the UEFA Europa League/UEFA Cup group stage – and indeed the most recent meeting between clubs from the two nations – came in 2006/07, when SC Braga thrashed FC Slovan Liberec 4-0. Prior to that, no Portuguese outfit had beaten Czech opponents in five games since the turn of the millennium.
• Plzeň are making their UEFA Europa League group stage debut, following their maiden UEFA Champions League group stage campaign last season. They finished third in a section containing FC Barcelona, AC Milan and FC BATE Borisov, and transferred to the UEFA Europa League round of 32, where they lost to FC Schalke 04.
• Plzeň have played six qualifying games this season, recording five victories and one defeat, winning all three of their home fixtures without conceding.
• The Czech side's European home form is good: in 12 home games since first competing internationally in the 1971/72 European Cup Winners' Cup, only two sides have beaten them: FC Bayern München (1-0 in 1971) and Barcelona (4-0 last season). Their overall home record is W6 D4 L2.
• Académica have not played in Europe since losing 7-1 on aggregate to eventual runners-up Wolverhampton Wanderers FC in the first round of the inaugural UEFA Cup in 1971.
• The Students have only scored one away goal in five UEFA games, beating KuPS Kuopio of Finland 1-0 thanks to Nene's 65th-minute effort in a European Cup Winners' Cup first round game on 1 October 1969.
• Académica's Brazilian midfielder Rodrigo Galo turns 26 on the eve of the match.
• Plzeň's midfield stalwart Pavel Horváth played for Sporting Clube de Portugal from 2000-01 but did not win a regular first-team place.
• Pavel Vrba's career as a defender peaked with spells at Baník Ostrava and RH Cheb in the 1980s. After coaching the national Under-20 side, he won the Czech title with Baník (2003/04) and the Slovakian crown at MŠK Žilina (2006/07), moving on to Plzeň in 2008. He won the Czech Cup in his second season and the league title in his third, in 2010/11, then marshalled their progress to the UEFA Champions League group stage the following season.
• Born in Angola, ex-defender Pedro Emanuel helped Boavista FC win their only league title in 2000/01, before he claimed five more titles as a player with FC Porto, as well as the 2002/03 UEFA Cup and 2003/04 UEFA Champions League. Assistant to André Villas-Boas at Porto in 2010/11, he took sole command of Académica the following season, and guided the side to Portuguese Cup glory – their first trophy since 1939.