Czech league winners Viktoria Plzeň and AEK Larnaca lock horns at the Doosan Arena on Thursday evening in their first ever meeting. Both sides failed to make it through to the Champions League finals so they’ll be keen to progress to the group stages of the Europa tournament.
Czech side Viktoria continue their Europa League debut and they’ll be looking to capitalize on the home advantage. They had a dismal end to their Champions League campaign, conceding three goals in less than ten minutes and losing 4-1 at home to Steaua Bucuresti earlier this month. However, they’ve kicked off the new season on good form. After 3 games in the Czech Liga so far, they’re the only side to have won all 9 points, scoring one or more goals and keeping a clean sheet in every match. In their most recent league match on the 29 July they thumped Dukla Prague 4-0 at home. In fact, since last season they haven’t lost in the Czech league for 6 games, scoring 10 times and conceding just twice. Manager Pavel Vrba is likely to stick with the reasonably successful 4-2-3-1 formation, playing Czech Republic international Michal Krmenčík up front. The 24-year-old scored twice in two Champions League qualifiers, and has 2 World Cup qualifier goals to his name.
Underdogs Larnaca begin their seventh tie in the qualifying rounds with a solid record. They’ve won 4 times and drawn twice in the tournament, scoring in every single game. They put away 11 goals in those 6 games and conceded only twice. They also managed to keep a clean sheet in 4 of their last 6 qualifying matches.
The Cyprus Championship season has yet to start, but they finished a close second in their domestic league last season — just 4 points shy of winners APOEL Nicosia. In fact, they come into this match unbeaten in 14 games, having scored a very respectable 66 goals in just 36 matches last season.
They also have a reasonably strong away record with 4 wins, 2 draws and 2 losses out of their last 10, and could cause Plzeň some real problems on Thursday.
Top Betting Tips
It’s difficult to predict how Larnaca will fair, given their league season hasn’t yet begun. However, their fairly comfortable ride through the first three qualification rounds indicates they’ll be no pushover. They’re certainly stronger than the bookies seem to believe. They could well cause an upset in Plzeň tonight, so the away win at 15/4 is a worthwhile price. An away win with both teams to score at 9/1 is even better.
Viktoria are enjoying a run of good form in their domestic league, with plenty of goals and a solid defensive record. After their most recent Champions League disaster it’s still difficult to say whether they’ll be a match for Larnaca, even with the home advantage. Bookies have Viktoria as the clear favourite, but AEK will no doubt put a lot of pressure on the home side. Viktoria for the win with both teams to score at 10/3 is certainly a safer option than backing the away side.
If you’re more risk averse, at 14/5 the draw is also tempting choice, with the early cashout option available in-play. The first leg of the UEFA Europa League qualification playoff stage kicks off on Thursday at 6:15pm UTC. It should be an exciting contest and we’re expecting goals.
Last 3 Games
- Viktoria Plzen vs Sigma Olomouc 1
- -0Jablonec vs FC Viktoria Plzen
- 0-1Viktoria Plzen vs FC FCSB
- 1-4Dinamo Minsk vs AEK Larnaca
- 1-1AEK Larnaca vs Dinamo Mi
- nsk 2-0AEK Larnaca vs Cork City 1-0