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Plzeň seek their fortune against Schalke

FC Viktoria Plzeň take on German opponents for the first time in 40 years when the Czech champions move into the UEFA Europa League to face FC Schalke 04 in the round of 32.

Plzeň are playing in Europe in the spring for the first time
Plzeň are playing in Europe in the spring for the first time ©Getty Images

FC Viktoria Plzeň made their European debut with a defeat by German opponents, and 40 years on meet FC Schalke 04 in the UEFA Europa League round of 32.

Previous meetings
• 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.

• Schalke's eight games against Czech sides have ended W5 D1 L2 (W1 D1 L2 in the Czech Republic, where they are unbeaten in two visits since 1998).

• Plzeň captain Pavel Horváth featured in Schalke's last defeat by a Czech club. His AC Sparta Praha side traded 1-0 home wins with Schalke before winning the teams' 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 side – 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.

Match background
• Plzeň's record in eight home matches since they made their European debut with the aforementioned home defeat by Bayern is W3 D3 L2.

• This is their 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.

• 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 seven games – five wins and two draws – since a shock 2-0 loss at HJK Helsinki in the play-off first leg. They have not conceded in three subsequent away games, winning their last two matches at AEK Larnaca FC (5-0) and Maccabi Haifa FC (3-0).

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

• Alexander Langlitz celebrates his 21st birthday on the eve of the match.

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

• 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.

• 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.

Round of 16
• The winners of this tie will take on FC Steaua Bucureşti or FC 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:

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