While AZ struggles with its shape, Viktoria Plzen turns at full speed

In view of the home advantage, AZ are given the best chances to make it to the next round. But based on the last ten years the proportions are very different.

“A very stiff team that fights for every metre”, Mick van Buren describes the team that has recently been active three times in the group stage of the Champions League. The striker has played regularly against Viktoria Plzen in the last four years with Slavia Prague.

Though AZ lost to a Czech opponent in Europe during five previous meetings (three times against Slovan Liberec, twice against FK Jablonec), it’s a good thing to be careful.

There is not much information about the club through Dutch connections, about the trainer there is. Adrián Gula is a good friend of Tscheu La Ling, a former player of Ajax, FC Den Haag and Feyenoord, among others. “We still have regular contact

The current owner of the Slovakian company AS Trencín offered Gula the opportunity to become head coach more than ten years ago. “He did very well. He matched the vision of the club exactly, we had three successful years with him at the helm.”

And that vision of Ling’s club is inspired by the Orange of 1974, the acclaimed total football.

Good series

“Gula has provided a good basis here”, Ling praises the work of his former head coach. “He played offensive, dominant football in home games. And in duels more compact. But absolutely no fear football.”

The 45-year-old Gula has only been employed by Viktoria Plzen since this calendar year and put down an incredibly good series in competition, with only one defeat in sixteen duels.

“Gula is already seen there as a top trainer. And there has also been some interest in him from the west”, Ling knows. “His teams always play in very good discipline. And he’s got modern ideas about football.”

Short coronastop

Gula was able to sharpen his playing principles at Plzen, because in contrast to the Dutch league in the Czech Republic, after a relatively short coronastop, football continued again.

“But if AZ reaches the level it can, I think it’s the better team”, Van Buren thinks. There he mentions something, because after a long period without football, the Alkmaarders are now struggling with their form.

Only one of the six practice duels was won, where trainer Arne Slot immediately placed the nuance that a conscious choice was also made for strong practice partners.

“I’m not worried that our game isn’t as flashy as it was last season”, says captain Teun Koopmeiners, confident that his team is mentally ready for the important game. “It tickles to finally play for something again.”

AZ got good news about Calvin Stengs, who returns to the selection after a muscle injury.

“Stengs or no Stengs, I think the selection is wide enough. The best thing is that it is about one duel, where AZ is lucky that it plays at home”, says Ling. “But it won’t be easy.”