The Plzen men who could dent Man City's Europe dreams
Following two extremely difficult group draws in their first couple of seasons in the Champions League, Manchester City will be relieved to be facing a side like Viktoria Plzen in their first game of 2013/14.
But while the Czech champions aren't one of Europe's biggest footballing names, they could be a surprisingly tricky opponent for Manuel Pellegrini's side.
Having been considered something of a yo-yo club at the beginning of this century, Plzen have now built a young, cohesive, attack-minded side under their highly-rated manager Pavel Vrba.
While the 49-year-old coach is realistic in his ambitions for this season's group stage - he has already stated he will be targeting "four or five points" - Plzen are sure to be no pushovers for a City side yet to make their mark on European club football's top competition.
There are three players City should be keeping a particular eye on in Plzen. The first is Daniel Kolar, who plays in the central attacking midfield role in Vrba’s 4-2-3-1 system.
A key feature of Plzen’s side throughout the past five seasons, Kolar isn’t the most spectacular playmaker but plays a consistent, reliable role in linking midfield and attack.
Kolar often drifts to the right of the pitch, although he also gets into goalscoring position. This was demonstrated by his performance in last year’s 4-0 win over Hapoel Tel-Aviv, when he scored two close-range headers.
Another man to stop is central midfielder Pavel Horvarth. A true veteran – his only participation in a major international tournament was at Euro 2000 – he very much looks his 38 years of age, and isn’t a particularly mobile central midfielder.
But Hovarth still has technical quality. A solid defensive worker, he’s also very positive with his distribution of the ball. As his performance in the Europa League against Napoli last season demonstrated, his passing is often extremely vertical and finds Plzen’s wingers in dangerous positions.
Finally, Pellegrini may summon James Milner for the right-sided midfield role, because Plzen left-back David Limbersky – very briefly of Tottenham - can be a considerable attacking threat.
A natural left-back despite wearing the No.8 shirt, Limbersky consistently gets forward, yet his game is more about the timing of runs than sheer stamina. He also has decent end product, providing a couple of assists in the Europa League last season.