Manchester City will be hoping it is third time lucky as they look to progress out of their Champions League group, and although they face tough matches against reigning champions Bayern Munich and Russian side CSKA Moscow, the face a not so daunting trip to Viktoria Plzen.
However, although City – armed with Manuel Pellegrini now at the helm rather than his predecessor Roberto Mancini – will start as overwhelming favourites, Plzen have won 10 of their last 11 European games at the Štruncovy Sady Stadion.
The Czech Republic champions had to come through three qualifying rounds on their way to the group stages, seeing off Bosnia and Herzegovina side FK Zeljeznicar 6-4 on aggregate, Estonia's JK Nomme Kalju 10-2 (agg) and NK Maribor of Slovenia 4-1 (agg).
They have already had to play 14 matches since their season started in July, compared to City’s four Premier League matches, and they go into this year’s campaign after claiming victories over Napoli and Atletico Madrid in last season’s Europa League.
Amazingly, Manchester and City have never been drawn against a side from the Czech Republic while Plzen have never faced an English side, although they did host Grimsby Town in a friendly back in 1959 under their former name Spartak Plzen, earning an entertaining 3-3 draw.
City’s Bosnian striker Edin Dzeko used to play in the Czech top flight for FK Teplice and played against Plzen on three occasions, but he will be hoping for a change in fortunes as he has a record of one draw and two defeats against Tuesday’s opponents.
The competition’s leading goalscorer is surprisingly Plzen defender Marián Čišovský who – alongside Zenit St-Petersburg midfielder Roman Shirokov – has scored five goals in the qualification stages.
Daniel Kolar will pose another threat to Pellegrini’s side having scored three goals in his last three Czech league games, and Plzen are actually unbeaten this season having won 12 of their 14 games, scoring 40 goals already and conceding just 13 – albeit against much lesser opposition than City will pose.
However, City could choose to rest a number of key players with one eye on next weekend’s Manchester derby at the Etihad, as David Moyes’ side are set to visit in yet another early derby match – having already had a north London derby at the beginning of the month. If they take their eyes off this match too much, they could give Plzen a much needed chance in a game they should be winning comfortably if they are to be taken as serious contenders for this year’s cup.
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