UEFA Europa League – H. Beer-Sheva-Plzeň – Hapoel Beer-Sheva v Plzeň background
Hapoel Beer-Sheva, the bottom-placed club in Group G, take on Viktoria Plzeň in Israel knowing that this will be their last European outing of the season.
• Plzeň are through to the next round and will overhaul FCSB and take top spot if they win and the Romanian side fail to do likewise at home to Lugano.
• The teams’ first encounter, on matchday two, brought a 3-1 home victory for Plzeň, goals from Milan Petržela, Jan Kopic and Marek Bakoš eclipsing Anthony Nwakaeme’s solitary strike for Beer-Sheva.
• Plzeň have now won four of their five previous encounters with Israeli clubs, including both games in Israel.
• Beer-Sheva’s only other meetings with a Czech side ended in defeats by Sparta Praha (1-0 home, 2-0 away) in last season’s UEFA Europa League group stage.
• Beer-Sheva are without a victory in four European matches (D1 L3). However, they have won four of their five UEFA fixtures in Israel this season.
• Plzeň have not claimed a European away win in their last 12 attempts (D5 L7). The last time they won away in a UEFA group stage was in Israel, 2-1 against Hapoel Tel-Aviv, on 25 October 2012. Including the UEFA Champions League, they have lost nine of their 12 away group fixtures since then.
• Beaten on away goals by Maribor in the UEFA Champions League play-offs, Beer-Sheva are competing in the UEFA Europa League group stage for a second straight season, having made the round of 32 on their debut appearance in 2016/17.
• Runners-up in last term’s Czech First League, Plzeň are contesting the UEFA Europa League group stage for a third straight season. With their 2-0 win at home to FCSB on matchday five, they have successfully avoided a third successive autumn elimination and can look forward to a fourth round of 32 participation in the spring.
Links and trivia
• The journey from Plzen to Beer Sheva is around 2,700km.
• Beer-Sheva boast Czech talent in the form of international striker Tomáš Pekhart, who played for Slavia Praha (2009), Jablonec (2010) and Sparta Praha (2011).
• Pekhart played with Plzeň’s Jan Kovařík at Slavia and Jablonec, and with Martin Zeman at Sparta.
• Chasing their fifth championship title in eight seasons, Plzeň won their opening 14 Czech First League games before Teplice ended that run by holding them to a 0-0 draw on 26 November.
• Hapoel’s Loai Taha is available after a one-game ban.
• Suspended for next game if booked: Marek Bakoš (Plzeň)
• Appointed Beer-Sheva boss in 2015, Barak Bakhar promptly steered the club to their first title in 40 years, then successfully defended that crown in 2016/17. A defender, he spent his playing heyday at Hapoel Kiryat Shmona, whom he later coached.
• After stints as Czech Republic and Anji coach, Pavel Vrba rejoined Plzeň this year, having earlier steered the club to two championships between 2008 and 2013. Once a Baník Ostrava player and coach, he lifted the 2006/07 Slovak title as Žilina boss.