Prague – Czech champions Viktoria Plzen are looking to add Manchester City to their collection of beaten giants when the two teams clash in their Champions League Group D opener on Tuesday.
Plzen beat Atletico Madrid in the Europa League group stage last season before sweeping Napoli in the last-32, and they are hungry for more while being aware City may be a harder nut to crack.
“They're an English team, playing more physical football,” said defender David Limbersky, playing his sixth season for the current Czech top-flight leaders.
“They have a number of players from abroad and their quality is immense, but we believe in our own strength and maybe Manchester will underestimate us a bit.”
Big-spending City, sitting fourth in the Premier League with seven points from four games, owe their fans a Champions League success after failing to get past the group stage in the last two seasons.
“Now we have two years of experience. We have an even stronger team and we hope to go through,” City striker Stevan Jovetic, acquired from Fiorentina before the season, told the uefa.com website.
City manager Manuel Pellegrini bemoaned injuries plaguing his defence after his team had stumbled to a goalless draw at Stoke City on Saturday.
“We have four of five injured players that are important. From the back four, Micah Richards, Vincent Kompany and Gael Clichy are out, and David Silva is out as well,” he said.
Besides, Argentinian defender Martin Demichelis has been ruled out for several weeks with a knee injury.
Pellegrini said Kompany, the team captain, could make it back in time for the Plzen tie.
“We'll see with Vincent what happens, we'll talk with the doctor, with the player, and we'll see if he can play on Tuesday,” Pellegrini said.
His Plzen counterpart Pavel Vrba has similar problems when it comes to defence.
Plzen missed injured Slovak stalwart Marian Cisovsky and right-back Radim Reznik in Friday's 1-1 draw at Slovan Liberec while Cisovsky's replacement Lukas Hejda limped off during the game.
“At this moment the crucial thing is to have as many players as possible available on Tuesday,” said Vrba.
“We definitely want to get ready for Manchester, and we want to succeed.”
Vrba took charge at Plzen in 2008 and led them to two Czech titles, in 2011 and 2013, as well as to a Champions League debut in the 2011/2012 season.
Viktoria played in Prague then as their stadium failed to meet UEFA requirements for European tournaments.
But Tuesday's tie will be the first Champions League experience for the western Czech city of Plzen, famous for its Pilsner beer.
Vrba has put together several remarkable talents in the past five years who have become the backbone of the Czech national team, with many of them transferred to western European leagues.
The departure of young midfielder Vladimir Darida to Bundesliga side Freiburg two weeks ago has left the Plzen midfield once again in the hands of Pavel Horvath, the stocky 38-year-old captain.
Group D is made up of reigning champions Bayern Munich and CSKA Moscow. – Sapa-AFP