@TheCzechUp: End of an era for Viktoria Plzen
- 25 November 2013 10:09
- Posted by @TheCzechUp
Czech football experts @TheCzechUp provide us with an in-depth update on Wednesday's Champions League opponents...
With progression from the group now beyond their reaches, the attention turns to the stated aim of a third-placed finish and the subsequent move towards the Europa League.
Therefore this tie with Manchester City is a must-not-lose encounter from Czech perspectives. But behind-the-scenes, Viktoria Plzeň are in turmoil.
The reverse fixture, and the opening game to Group D, was goalless at the break and optimism was riding high for the Gambrinus Liga title-holders.
But in a blistering twenty-minute spell City put on the after-burners to score three without reply and in doing so, start off a chain of events that brought about an out-of-character wobble.
An inconsistent domestic run saw the club only pick up five points out of a potential twelve on the domestic front followed and their run of poor performances culminated in an absolute horror show at the Allianz Arena against Bayern Munich.
There, the usually progressively minded Plzeň turned up with a defensive 4-6-0 and limply rolled over for Pep Guardiola’s side.
Results, and performances, may have improved as of late.
"After the debacle in Munich and a defeat to dark-horses Teplice, the side promptly rebounded to put six past Jablonec and then gave Bayern many a problem, with Guardiola calling the tie ‘the toughest’ of his four matches against the Czech outfit."
A hard-fought victory over Mladá Boleslav followed and Plzeň entered the international break in a buoyant mood – a mood that soon went south.
On Monday afternoon the news broke that Pavel Vrba would be leaving the club in December, bringing an end to a five year stint in Plzeň that brought two league titles and a period of unparalleled success to the western Bohemian club.
His destination was known to even the most casual spectator of Czech football.
For months, the notion of Vrba taking over the Czech national side had not so much been the elephant in the room, but the elephant that openly engaged in conversations with everybody, so blatant were the statements made by key officials.
After prolonged deadlock in which both club and association remained at loggerheads, Vrba took the matter into his own hands.
He utilised a clause in his contact that allowed him to leave during the impending winter break for ‘other challenges’.
Ironically, this clause was inserted after the Slovakian FA unsuccessfully tried to tempt the forty-nine year old last year.
"Shortly after the decision went public Viktoria Plzeň’s website crashed – a potential parallel for the team as Ceskatelevize’s Martin Vait pointed out – and then, to the surprise of nobody, the FACR announced that he would assume a role with them commencing January 1st."
The shadow cast by this saga shows no signs of disappearing in the immediate future. Vrba has four games left in his tenure with Plzeň and it wouldn’t be overly hyperbolical to state that these fixtures have the possibility to define the entire season.
On the pitch however, left-back David Limberský should be in line for a competitive return after a mixture of injury and illness has kept the sidelined from a starting berth.
Further forward the midfield duo of Pavel Horváth and Tomáš Hořava have returned to form and are enjoying another promising spell together.
Against Bayern, Horváth excelled and the veteran will undoubtedly want to enjoy what is likely to be his last UEFA away-day whilst the ever-improving Hořava marked his third international appearance with a goal as the Czech Republic defeated Canada 2-0.
But up-front is where the problem lies.
An important game for European ambitions eclipsed by an acrimonious tug-of-war between national association and defending club champions.
You almost couldn’t make it up.
But City, with qualification assured, will have to remember that football is a funny old game.