FC Viktoria Plzeň coach Pavel Vrba celebrates his 49th birthday when his team take on holders Club Atlético de Madrid with top spot in Group B the prize at stake in the Czech Republic.
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FC Viktoria Plzeň can give their coach top spot in UEFA Europa League Group B as a birthday present as holders Club Atlético de Madrid visit, with both sides sure of a round of 32 place.
Group B permutations
• Atlético are through and need a point to win the group.
• Plzeň are also through and will top the section if they beat Atlético.
• A. Académica de Coimbra and Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC are out.
• Cristian Rodríguez powered in the winner in added time as Atlético prevailed 1-0 in the sides' first meeting on matchday two.
• In their only previous tie against a Czech club, Atlético beat FC Zlín 4-2 away before losing 2-0 at home in the 2004 UEFA Intertoto Cup to go through on away goals.
• Plzeň lost 2-0 away and 4-0 at home against FC Barcelona – their only previous encounters with a Liga club – in the 2011/12 UEFA Champions League group stage. They have thus yet to score against a Spanish side.
• Plzeň are unbeaten in seven European home games – two draws followed by five straight wins – since they last hosted a Spanish side, losing 4-0 to Barcelona in the 2011/12 UEFA Champions League group stage.
• The Czech outfit have yet to be beaten at home in seven UEFA Europa League outings.
• Atlético have won two of the three UEFA Europa Leagues since the competition took on its new identity.
• Prior to their 2-0 loss at Académica on matchday four, Atlético had won a record 16 successive games in UEFA club competition – a run which included seven straight victories on their travels.
• Plzeň's Pavel Horvath beat his own record to become the UEFA Europa League oldest goalscorer, scoring from the penalty spot against Académica on matchday five at the age of 37 years 214 days.
• Atlético's Falcao is the joint-second highest scorer in the UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League, he and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar having racked up 30 goals each. They need ten more if they are to match the competition's all-time top scorer, Henrik Larsson.
• Falcao has won back-to-back UEFA Europa League titles, with FC Porto and then Atlético, finishing top scorer both seasons (with a record 17 goals for Porto in 2010/11 and 12 more for Atlético in 2011/12). He is bidding to become the first player to win the competition (in this guise and as the UEFA Cup before) three times in a row.
• 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 lifted 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 term.
• Vrba may do the best half-time team talks in the group stage – Plzeň have scored four goals within 15 minutes of the restart, more than any other side in this season's competition.
• Hired in December 2011, Atlético coach Diego Simeone picked up the UEFA Europa League and UEFA Super Cup trophies in his first eight months in charge, adding to the considerable haul he won as a defensive midfielder. A Spanish double winner in 1995/96 in the first of two spells with Atlético, the man capped 106 times by Argentina captured the 1997/98 UEFA Cup at FC Internazionale Milano and then an Italian double in 1999/2000 with S.S. Lazio.