If we were to consult the history books they would tell us that the defending champions do not retain their crown. Not since Slavia Prague in 2009 has a Czech club managed to secure back-to-back league championships. It’s an ominous precedent and one that can be explained by the additional demands that an often rigorous European campaign puts on a squad. So what makes Viktoria Plzen think that they can do something which has eluded themselves, Sparta Prague and Slovan Liberec in recent years?
Ahead of the season Plzen’s general manager Adolf Sadek claimed that the league title and progression into the Group Stages of the Champions League for the third time would be the club’s aims this year, which is fairly standard fair for somebody with lofty ambitions. But not even Pavel Vrba could achieve such a Herculean task.
Last season: 1st
Odds: Evens (Bwin)
But times have changed and for once it seems that this double of continental qualification and league glory is achievable. Admittedly Jablonec are strengthening, but Sparta Prague are entering a period of transition – meanwhile everything is worryingly calm at the Doosan Arena.
Miroslav Koubek has his feet planted firmly under the table now and has a firm grasp on the squad that seemed ever so slightly resistant to the ways of his predecessor, Dusan Uhrin. Well-oiled and importantly acting as a collective unit, Plzen have had a relatively quiet summer. But quiet doesn’t necessarily mean it hasn’t been exciting.
Jan Kopic arrives from Jablonec, with Tomas Wagner and Stanislav Tecl heading the other way. It depends on who you trust, but some have estimated the value of that switch to be in the region of a cool £1m. Others summer signings are Tomas Kucera (Jihlava), Egon Vuch (Teplice) and the highly-rated Pribram pair of youngsters Ales Mateju and Jan Suchan, though none of these are expected to break into the first-team for anytime soon. Aside from the amiable veteran Pavel Horvath – who has jumped straight into management with Domazlice – nobody of note has departed.
Plzen took to the field last weekend in the Czech Super Cup where they comfortably saw off a much improved Slovan Liberec without ever really reaching fourth of fifth gear.
With plenty of strength in depth, keeping everybody fresh for a two-pronged assault shouldn’t be an issue.
In rude financial health thanks to ever increasing sponsorship deals and a steady influx of UEFA prize money, Plzen are a side that is now capable of splashing the cash and securing the future of their biggest assets: Daneil Kolar, Frantisek Rajtoral, Radim Reznik and David Limbersky have all signed new contracts over the summer and – so far at least – they have (supposedly) rejected a number of soft advances for Vaclav Pilar, who finally returned to the match-winning form that saw him spring up on the radar of many a top European club.
It will be a tough task, but if any team in recent memory can do the impossible and lift the Synot Liga trophy in back-to-back years it will be this Viktoria Plzen side.
Daniel Kolar – Last season Miroslav Koubek wasn’t afraid to chop and change his starting XI to suit the opposition and reward those in form, but Kolar was an ever present figure for Plzen who enjoyed one of his best seasons to date. Eleven goals and seven assists he proof – if any were needed – that in the post-Horvath era, the twenty-nine year-old is the create fulcrum of Viktoria Plzen.
One to watch
Patrik Hrosovsky – Somebody else who was near-enough ever present for Plzen last year was Hrosovsky. A real bustling presence who covers the hard yards, the Slovak international weighed in with seven assists from a deeper, central midfield position – proof that his creative side often flies under the radar.
- Posted by Chris Boothroyd
- On 23rd July 2015