UEFA Europa League – Partizan-Plzeň – Partizan v Plzeň background
Sampling European football in the spring for the first time in 13 years, Partizan take on a Viktoria Plzeň side seeking to carry on where they left off after a memorable first half of the season on both the domestic and European front.
• The Belgrade side qualified in Dynamo Kyiv’s slipstream from Group B, winning two, drawing two and losing two of their six matches. Plzeň, meanwhile, recovered from a disappointing start to win each of their last three fixtures en route to topping Group G.
• The two clubs have never met in UEFA competition.
• Partizan have won both of their previous two home games against Czech opponents, including a 5-0 victory over Sparta Praha in the quarter-final of the 1965/66 European Champion Clubs’ Cup, in which they eventually finished as runners-up.
• Plzeň’s only tie against Serbian opposition came in the 2015/16 UEFA Europa League play-offs, when they won 2-0 away to Vojvodina to complete a 5-0 aggregate success.
• Partizan have won three (including the last two) and lost two of their six home European fixtures this season, keeping three clean sheets. They scored two goals in each of their group stage matches in Belgrade.
• Partizan are into the knockout phase of the UEFA Europa League for the first time after four group stage failures. The last season in which they successfully came through a group stage was 2004/05, when they reached the last 16 of the UEFA Cup.
• Plzeň’s 2-0 victory at Hapoel Beer-Sheva on matchday six of the group stage was their first European away win in 13 attempts (D5 L7), stretching back to that 2015/16 UEFA Europa League play-off win in Serbia against Vojvodina.
• This is Plzeň’s fourth participation in the UEFA Europa League round of 32. They were defeated by Schalke in 2011/12 but reached the last 16 on each of their last two appearances, beating Napoli in 2012/13 and Shakhtar Donetsk in 2013/14 and in each case winning the away leg. Their last two UEFA Europa League campaigns, in 2015/16 and 2016/17, ended at the group stage.
• Partizan won last season’s Serbian Superliga. Their path to the UEFA Europa League round of 32 began in the second qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League and has already taken in 12 European matches. This 13th fixture makes 2017/18 the club’s longest ever European campaign.
• Runners-up in last term’s Czech First League, Viktoria Plzeň lost to FCSB in the third qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League but finished above the same Romanian opponents in their UEFA Europa League group, having trailed them by six points halfway through.
Links and trivia
• Partizan’s Zoran Tošić played twice against Plzeň for CSKA Moskva in the group stage of the 2013/14 UEFA Champions League, scoring the opening goal past current Plzeň goalkeeper Matúš Kozáčik in a 3-2 home win.
• When in charge of the Czech Republic national side, Plzeň coach Pavel Vrba’s team defeated Serbia 4-1 in a friendly on 13 November 2015 (4-1). Tošić and Partizan goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovič both played for Serbia.
• Chasing their fifth championship title in eight seasons, Plzeň led the Czech First League by 14 points at the winter break having won 15 and drawn one of their 16 matches.
• Miroslav Djukić was assigned a second stint as Partizan coach in June 2017, having previously occupied the helm in 2007. The 48-times capped Yugoslavia sweeper played in Spain with Deportivo and Valencia, winning the Copa del Rey with both clubs and the Liga with the latter, and spent much of the last decade coaching there too. He had a short spell in the United Arab Emirates before replacing Marko Nikolić at Partizan.
• After stints as Czech Republic and Anji coach, heading the former at the UEFA EURO 2016 finals in France, Pavel Vrba rejoined Plzeň last year, having steered the club to two domestic championship titles between 2008 and 2013. Once a Baník Ostrava player and coach, he lifted the 2006/07 Slovak title as Žilina boss. He was voted Czech coach of the year five times running between 2010 and 2014.