Hello and welcome to Sports Mole
's live text coverage of the Champions League
clash between Viktoria Plzen
and Real Madrid
at the Doosan Arena. The three-time defending champions are aiming to keep pace with Roma at the top of Group G on what is their first trip to the Czech Republic in 17 years, while Viktoria need a shock result to keep their slim hopes of progression alive.
Madrid beat Viktoria 2-1 in the reverse fixture a fortnight ago, but they have since sacked Julen Lopetegui and replaced him - temporarily, at least - with reserve team boss Santiago Solari
. Having won two and lost one of their opening three group-stage matches, Los Blancos are not yet assured of a place in the last 16 but will be as good as over the line with three more points this evening.
REAL MADRID TEAM NEWS!
STARTING XI: Courtois; Odriozola, Ramos, Nacho, Reguilon; Kroos, Casemiro, Ceballos; Vazquez, Benzema, Bale
SUBS: Navas, Modric, Valverde, Asensio, Isco, Vinicius, Sanchez
Starting with a look at the visiting side, Santiago Solari
has made a couple of changes on the back of the 2-0 win over Real Valladolid at the weekend. Luka Modric drops out of central midfield and is replaced by Dani Ceballos, while Marco Asensio also makes way in the forward line for Lucas Vazquez. Asensio was expected to start this one on the bench, though it is a surprise that neither Isco nor Vinicius Junior are selected in his place.
Vinicius will be particularly disappointed to have once again missed out on a starting spot, having made the difference from the bench in the late - and somewhat fortunate - win against Valladolid four days ago. Isco, too, is far too good a player to be watching on from the bench, whereas Gareth Bale
can perhaps consider himself fortunate to have retained his place following another below-par showing last time out.
Changes made in midfield and the attack line, then, but the back four remains as it was. Raphael Varane, Marcelo, Dani Carvajal and Jesus Vallejo are all still out, so Solari has little choice but to keep things as they were. That is not too much of a problem, as Alvaro Odriozola is a very talented full-back, while Sergio Reguilon was Madrid's best player in the win against Valladolid. Nacho will again cover Varane at centre-back, alongside a man who needs no introduction in Sergio Ramos.
VIKTORIA PLZEN TEAM NEWS!
STARTING XI: Hruska; Limbersky, Hubnik, Hejda, Reznik; Prochazka, Hrosovsky; Kopic, Cermak, Havel; Chory
SUBS: Kozacik, Horava, Zeman, Petrzela, Reznicek, Pernica, Ekpai
Switching focus to the home side now, and boss Pavel Vrba
has opted to go with Tomas Chory as the lone striker. Chory has a big role to play as the focal point in this 4-2-3-1 system, having also filled in during the win against Banik Ostrava at the weekend. Michael Krmencik would usually be used in that role, but he damaged his knee ligaments in the defeat of Slovacko and is out for the season.
Chory is taller than the man he is replacing in the side, so we can expect to see some crosses aimed into the middle, with Havel and Kopic the men tasked with providing some support. Both players will also have defensive duties, of course, as keeping out the opposition is the main priority tonight - nicking a goal against the reigning European champions is very much a bonus.
Jakub Reznicek was the other option for Vrba, but he is clearly set on giving Chory a run through the middle. Elsewhere, Lukas Hejda has recovered from a muscle injury picked up recently, taking up a spot in the back four, while Jan Kopic also made a comeback last week and is included in attacking midfield. As expected, Ales Hruska is given the nod in goal and he could well be in for a busy night.
Santiago Solari makes two changes to Real Madrid's starting lineup from the weekend win over Real Valladolid, bringing in Lucas Vazquez and Dani Ceballos for Marco Asensio and Luka Modric - both men dropping down to the bench. Arguably the biggest news of all, though, is that Thibaut Courtois is preferred to Keylor Navas in goal, meaning that Solari does not intend to use the European Cup king domestically or in continental games.
PREVIOUS MEETINGS! Last month's meeting between the sides at the Bernabeu, finishing in a 2-1 win for Real Madrid, marked the first time that the sides had faced off in a competitive match. This is Los Blancos' first trip to the Czech Republic since winning 2-1 at Sparta Prague in November 2001, which was their first away triumph in this country at the fifth attempt.
Viktoria Plzen's last match against Spanish opposition ended in a 3-3 draw against Villarreal in the 2015-16 Europa League group phase. The Czech champions are running out of time to make an impact in this third ever Champions League
campaign, as they have picked up just one point from their opening three Group G matches - a 2-2 draw against CSKA Moscow on matchday one.
There is no shame in losing against Madrid at the Bernabeu, of course, but Viktoria travelled to the Spanish capital at the perfect possible table, taking on a Real side completely devoid of any confidence. They would have been disappointing not to have come away with a memorable point, in fact, as Patrik Hrosovsky pulled a goal back after Marcelo and Karim Benzema
had given the hosts some breathing space.
Viktoria trailed by two goals at the Bernabeu, but it was they who were two goals to the good in their match with CSKA on September 19, only to concede twice and come away with just a point. That was followed up by a chastening 5-0 reverse at the hands of an Edin Dzeko-inspired Roma in their second outing, before the 2-1 loss at the Bernabeu. Time is therefore against Vrba's men if they are to avoid finishing bottom.
A point is the target for Vrba tonight, though all three will be needed if the hosts are to have any realistic hopes of finishing in a top-two spot. Viktoria trailed Roma and Real by five points heading into tonight's games, while CSKA in third - who are home to Roma in the evening's early kickoff - are three points better off. It is worth remembering, though, that Plzen still have the Giallorossi and CSKA to face in their remaining two matches.
DID YOU KNOW? Viktoria Plzen have never previously made it past the group stage of the Champions League, having finished third in both 2011-12 and again in 2013-14, both times when placed in tough groups. Across those two campaigns and half of this one, the Czech side have won one, drawn three and lost three of their seven home group matches.
Viktoria are winless in 10 Champions League matches overall since a 2-1 qualifying victory against Maccabi Tel Aviv in July 2015, and they have just one win against Spanish opposition in seven attempts - a 1-0 victory over Atletico Madrid in the 2012-13 Europa League. That record points towards what could be a tough evening for the home side, then, but Vrba has promised to give it a good go.
Plzen are not exactly in the best of form right now, either, winning just two of their last five matches in all competitions, though they did pick up one of those victories last time out when seeing off Banik Ostrava in their domestic league. That triumph took the champions level on 34 points with Slavia Prague at the top of the division, three days on from losing to the same opposition in the Czech Cup - that was a hard defeat to take.
Viktoria Plzen have won just two of their last five matches, crashing out of the Czech Cup and seeing their hopes of progressing in the Champions League slowly fade away. Tonight's hosts have just one home win in seven attempts in the group stage of this competition, meanwhile, and they have gone 10 matches without a victory when taking home and away games into account.
Since earning a much-needed win over Plzen in last month's clash, Madrid have sacked Lopetegui and replaced him with Solari, who has stepped up from the reserve side for the time being. A heavy 5-1 loss a few days on from that reverse meeting with Viktoria proved to be one defeat too far for the Real board, as they were forced to take decisive action by swinging the axe just four months after appointing Lopetegui.
Five defeats in seven matches was an abysmal run of form for the Spanish giants - it was no surprise that Lopetegui was given the shove when he was. Solari is now expected to stay on until the end of the season, as Real are unlikely to persuade Tottenham Hotspur to let Mauricio Pochettino leave, while Antonio Conte is still in dispute with former employers Chelsea, so Solari is very much the easy and obvious choice.
Solari has started his tenure, whether it be short-term or long, in style by winning two games out of two. The comfortable win against lower-league opposition Melilla in the Copa del Rey was expected, but Los Blancos were made to work a little harder for their eventual 2-0 victory against Real Valladolid last weekend, getting the job done through a late own goal - Vinicius Junior firing away the decisive shot - and a Sergio Ramos penalty.
Even if they did get back to winning ways in La Liga last time out, the 2017 champions can surely forget about challenging for the title this term as they already trail Barcelona - themselves hardly flying - by seven points. Even bettering last season's third-placed finish could prove to be a big challenge, as Atletico Madrid and Sevilla are two of five sides sitting above them. Solari will simply take it one game at a time and hope for the best.
The pressure may be off Solari in terms of Real's domestic prospects, having taken over a side well off the pace, but this side is a different beast entirely in Europe. Los Blancos have lifted the Champions League three seasons running, all under Zinedine Zidane, and in four of the last five campaigns, so Solari is pretty much on a hiding to nothing. A failure to match Zidane's achievements and his tenure will be considered a failure by most, as harsh as that sounds.
Real's 1-0 loss to CSKA Moscow on matchday two was just their fifth defeat in 35 European matches, with another of those also coming under Lopetegui in the UEFA Super Cup against Atletico Madrid in August - quite some legacy the former Spain boss left behind! They have since responded with that 2-1 win against Viktoria two weeks ago, leaving them on six points as they also brushed aside Roma 3-0 in their opener - a match that they truly dominated.
Real, who have reached the Champions League semi-finals or better in each of the last eight seasons, are embarking on a run of four successive away matches. Following this trip to the Czech Republic, they travel to Celta Vigo and Eibar in La Liga, before ending the month with a match at Roma in their fifth Group G match. It has yet to be confirmed, but it is looking increasingly likely that stand-in boss Solari will oversee each of those games.
GROUP G RESULT! There has already been a game played in Group G this evening, with Roma doing what Real Madrid could not in beating CSKA Moscow at the Luzhniki Stadium. Los Blancos could not even muster a point in the Russian capital, in fact, so that win lifts Roma to the top of the standings, three points in front of the competition's most successful side. Viktoria can join CSKA on four points if they do the unthinkable and beat Real.
With kickoff at the Doosan Arena now a little under five minutes away, let us check out some pre-match thoughts from both camps.
Pavel Vrba: "You can not compare our League with the Champions League, I wish it could be done, we have to think about doing something good, and a draw would be [a good outcome]. We have played against Barcelona, Manchester City, Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid and now Real Madrid. I understand what people feel now, I'm sure I'll sleep well before the game."
Santiago Solari: "I am committed to my role, whether that be for two more days, or a week, just the same. In football the solutions and problems are never just one thing, whether it is going well or not. We have played two difficult games, which we had to play well to win. You do not win games if you do not do things well. We have to do the same on Wednesday in a different competition."
Home boss Vrba admits that a draw would be considered "a good outcome" tonight, and you cannot really argue against that. Real may have been pretty terrible over the past couple of months, but they head into this match on the back of successive wins in league and cup, and they tend to be a different beast entirely on the continent. That said, they lost 1-0 at CSKA Moscow last month, so anything is possible.
KICKOFF: Real Madrid, who require all three points against Viktoria Plzen if they are to rejoin Roma at the top of Group G, get us up and running at the Doosan Arena. A big evening ahead for both sides in front of a crowd that is well up for it.
Real, sporting their traditional all-white strip, look as though they will go with a 4-3-3 formation tonight. There had been some suggestions pre-match that the inclusion of Lucas Vazquez and Dani Ceballos would see them use a 4-4-2.
The visitors, boasting so much experience on the continent, have not exactly settled just yet. Real have no flow to their game and have been wayward with a few passes, while Karim Benzema - one short of 200 goals for the club - is needlessly caught offside.
Madrid have a weak penalty shout for handball turned down by the official. Still not quite at full flow, are Real, but they are dominating possession and will no doubt click into gear the longer the match goes on.
Maybe I was wrong - Dani Ceballos is being used as a number 10 just behind Karim Benzema, so it is not quite a 4-3-3. Either way, Solari clearly wants his players to get on the ball high up the pitch, which they have not really managed so far.
OFF THE BAR! Real's players are struggling in what is an unorthodox system. Patrik Hrosovsky, who scored at the Bernabeu, gets a cross into the box and Nacho Fernandez deflects it onto his own crossbar - a lucky escape for the visitors. A weak pen shot from Chory was then rejected.
Viktoria Plzen are knocking on the door for an opener. Minutes after hitting the crossbar, Roman Prochazka bends a cross out of play when he perhaps could have put it on a plate for one of his teammates. Real's system is not working at all.
Real with 64% possession with 15 minutes played, yet it is their opponents who have looked the more likely to score. The crossbar came to the European champions' rescue a little earlier, and it is Plzen who have a spring in their step.
Sergio Ramos, sent off 24 times in his career, catches Milan Havel right on the nose with his elbow. That is a broken nose all day long, and it could well mean that Pavel Vrba will have to make a change far earlier than he would have liked.
Suggestions that Ramos is lucky to avoid a sending-off for that elbow on Havel, but I'll give the centre-back the benefit of a doubt and say that he did not mean it. Nearly a quarter of the game played and Los Blancos are still in first gear.
Gareth Bale beats his marker and gets a decent header on target, which Ales Hruska was equal to. The offside flag was up, anyway, so it would not have counted. First signs that Madrid are about to step things up.
GOAL! VIKTORIA PLZEN 0-1 REAL MADRID (KARIM BENZEMA)
A moment of quality from Karim Benzema gives Real Madrid the lead in the Czech Republic. The French striker took the ball past one man, dragged it past another and then tucked it through the legs of Ales Hruska for his 200th goal in Madrid colours.
There had been very little between the sides up until that breakthrough goal from Karim Benzema. You would fancy Los Blancos to push on and bag a few now, but the home side will of course have different ideas.
GOAL! VIKTORIA PLZEN 0-2 REAL MADRID (CASEMIRO)
A first goal since April for Casemiro gives Real Madrid some breathing space. Some terrible defending from the opposition allowed the Brazilian midfielder to guide Toni Kroos
's corner into the bottom corner via his head - as simple as you like.
Real have moved through the gears and are now looking good value for a third goal. Quite the contrast from the 20 minutes or so that preceded this spell of dominance - they could so easily have been behind before Karim Benzema had opened the scoring.
Viktoria are struggling now and could do with the half-time whistle. The match completely changed when Karim Benzema found a way through, paving the way for Casemiro to add a second. A third may well arrive before the interval.
SAVE! Gareth Bale, who has had a very quiet opening half an hour, cuts inside from out wide and gets a powerful shot on target for Ales Hruska to save. Lukas Hejda was then first to the loose ball to deny Karim Benzema a simple second.
The match is going through a quiet spell, which is good news for the home side. Some slack defending from Real almost allowed the Czech side to capitalise a few minutes ago, but Alvaro Odriozola got back to block the shot.
This is a good spell for the home side - maybe they don't want the half-time whistle, after all! The visitors are in control in terms of the scoreline, but they are not over the line just yet and could do with a third.
Viktoria have had the better of things over the past five or 10 minutes. Tomas Chory had half a chance but could not convert the pullback from Kopic, and that aside the Madrid defenders have not really been unable a great deal of pressure.
GOAL! VIKTORIA PLZEN 0-3 REAL MADRID (KARIM BENZEMA)
Game over before half time at the Doosan Arena as Real Madrid have themselves a third. A deep cross was guided back into the middle by Gareth Bale, and Karim Benzema had the simple task of nodding it over the line from three yards. Shocking defending.
VIKTORIA PLZEN SUB! Milan Havel has struggled since being caught in the nose by Sergio Ramos fairly early on, and he has finally been replaced by Milan Petrzela - home boss Vrba clearly unwilling to wait until half time.
GOAL! VIKTORIA PLZEN 0-4 REAL MADRID (GARETH BALE)
Real Madrid are ripping their opponents apart and now have a fourth goal to show for it. Dani Ceballos lofts a ball towards the back post, Karim Benzema got a slight touch to it and then Gareth Bale buried it past Ales Hruska on the volley.
Karim Benzema wants a hat-trick before the break, and he so nearly got it as a ball into the box was crying out to be converted. Plzen have had their moments in this first half, but some shocking defending has cost them dearly.
Real started very shaky tonight and could have been a goal down, but as it is they hold a four-goal advantage with a minute of the first half left to play. Karim Benzema has two and Gareth Bale and Casemiro also have one each.
HALF TIME: VIKTORIA PLZEN 0-4 REAL MADRID
The referee puts Viktoria Plzen's players out of their misery - for the next 15 minutes, at least. The Czech side were ripped apart by their opponents in a 20-minute spell that saw Real Madrid net four times to seal the points with time to spare.
Things could have turned out much differently on the night as Real initially struggled in an unorthodox 4-3-3 formation that had Dani Ceballos - in for Luka Modric in one of two changes - fielded just behind Karim Benzema. Viktoria could not capitalise on the uncertainty in the Madrid ranks, though, coming closest to a breakthrough when Patrik Hrosovsky - on the scoresheet in the 2-1 loss at the Bernabeu a fortnight ago - sent in a powerful cross that hit Nacho Fernandez and came back off the crossbar.
Madrid were also perhaps fortunate to still have captain Sergio Ramos on the field after he caught Milan Havel right on the nose with his elbow, forcing Plzen into a first-half change. With a quarter of the match played the visitors finally started to show just why they have made it through to at least the semi-finals seven years running, getting off the mark through a fine Karim Benzema strike.
The French striker took the ball past one player and then dragged it past another before slotting it through the legs of Ales Hruska for his 200th goal in the famous white strip. Casemiro guided a simple second into the corner of the net after being left totally unmarked from a corner, before Benzema helped himself to another in almost identical circumstances, this time once picked out by Gareth Bale's headed pass four yards out.
Bale, denied earlier in the half through a Hruska save, joined Benzema and Casemiro on the scoresheet before the interval with a powerful finish at the back post following some good play from Ceballos down the left. Where do Plzen go from here? Plenty for Pavel Vrba to ponder at the break...
VIKTORIA PLZEN SUBS: Kozacik, Horava, Zeman, Reznicek, Pernica, Ekpai
REAL MADRID SUBS: Navas, Modric, Valverde, Asensio, Isco, Vinicius, Sanchez
KICKOFF: Viktoria Plzen, who really do have it all to do in this second half, get proceedings back underway at the Doosan Arena. It is all very straightforward for Real Madrid, leaving stand-in boss Santiago Solari on the brink of a third successive win.
Madrid are already going through the motions here. Solari will no doubt turn to his bench over the next 10 minutes or so with an eye on the upcoming La Liga clash against Celta Vigo - the second of four successive away matches.
SAVE! A positive run from Patrik Hrosovsky leads to the first chance of the second period. A first good touch set him up nicely for the shot, which Thibaut Courtois was equal to down low - the angle was against the Plzen midfielder.
Karim Benzema is well up for this one. The French striker looks sharp as he charges into the box and wins his side a corner kick. Not sure if Solari will want to take off his leading man, even if this game is done and dusted.
SAVE! Thibaut Courtois with a second save in the space of five minutes to help push Jan Kopic's long-range drive over the crossbar. Credit to the home side - they are trying their absolute best to make a game of this.
Not the most gripping of second periods, which is understandable considering the points are in the bag for Real. Nacho is guilty of a terrible miss from five yards out, hitting the crossbar with just the keeper to beat, but the offside flag was up.
As things stand, with just over half an hour to play here and no sign of the result changing, Real will join Roma on nine points at the top of Group G. CSKA Moscow have four and Plzen are bottom on one - the best they can hope for now is a Europa League berth.
REAL MADRID SUB! I was wondering when Solari, heading for a third win from three matches, would turn to his bench. Vinicius Junior will be desperate to come on, having denied a starting spot tonight, but the first change sees Sergio Ramos replaced by European debutant Javi Sanchez.
VIKTORIA PLZEN SUB! A shot from Hrosovsky is dragged wide of goal - it does not look as though they will get off the mark this evening, even if Madrid have taken their foot off the gas. Cermak is replaced by Horava.
REAL MADRID SUB! Play is constantly being broken up by subs now, as highly-rated youngster Vinicius Junior comes on for two-goal striker Karim Benzema. This is the ideal match for the Brazilian to come on in - let's see what he's made of.
Plzen have been the better side in the second half, with Thibaut Courtois making a couple of stops and another few efforts either ending wide or over the crossbar. That is ultimately because Real have taken their foot off the gas, though.
Not an awful lot happening down on the field at the moment, which has been the case pretty much throughout this second half. Real have made a couple of changes and Viktoria one - will we see any further alterations before the end?
GOAL! VIKTORIA PLZEN 0-5 REAL MADRID (TONI KROOS)
This is a brilliant finish from Toni Kroos to add a fifth to his side's tally. Vinicius Junior played a part in the goal by carrying the ball forward and teeing up the German midfielder, who sent a delicious curled finish into the top corner.
Plzen are heading out of the Champions League with a whimper. A little under 20 minutes to go and it is now a question of just how many Real will get. Their record away win in this competition was a 6-0 success at APOEL last season.
REAL MADRID SUB! Toni Kroos is all smiles as he leaves the field to be replaced by Isco. I make it two assists and a goal for the German playmaker tonight - a fine display from a player who has not always been at it this term.
I think both managers would happily take full time around about now. Real started the match slowly but went on to net four times in the space of 19 first-half minutes, and since then it has just been a case of remaining professional.
Karim Benzema scored twice for Real Madrid in the second, while Casemiro, Gareth Bale and Toni Kroos have also registered. The visitors very much going through the motions now.
SAVE! Chory comes off to be replaced by Reznicek. Prior to that, the outgoing striker got away a shot on target that Thibaut Courtois did well to save. Viktoria have been good value for a consolation goal in this second half.
It may seem a strange thing to say at 6-0, but Real have not even been at their best tonight. Some dreadful defending from Viktoria in the first half made life far too easy for the European champions, and they have not looked back since then.
A little over five minutes to go at the Doosan Arena, and it is unlikely that the officials will add on any more than a couple of minutes out of sympathy for the home side. This has been the most comfortable of nights for Real.
Isco, who is having to make do with substitute appearances at the moment, attempts to make something happen down the right but does not get too far. Bale was then played in down the other side but could not pick out a player in white.
Viktoria still plugging away as we enter the final few minutes here, but it does not look like they will have a goal to celebrate. Real, too, also look happy with the five goals, leaving them one short of their previous record away win in the competition.
One minute of normal time left to play at the Doosan Arena, and it is job done for Real - as it has been pretty much from the point that they registered their second goal of the night. A few minutes are likely to be added on.
Confirmation that three minutes have been added on at the end of the second half. Lucas Vazquez charges through and sends the ball into the back of the net, but he celebrations are cut short by the offside flag - a very tight call.
FULL TIME: VIKTORIA PLZEN 0-5 REAL MADRID
Real Madrid get the job done in emphatic style in the Czech Republic, netting five times in what was a convincing win. Four of those goals came in a 19-minute spell in the first half, with Gareth Bale and Casemiro adding to Karim Benzema's double, before Toni Kroos rounded things off with an impressive fifth in the second period.
That concludes Sports Mole
's live text coverage of events from the Doosan Arena. An on-the-whistle report can be found by clicking here
, and be sure to join us again tomorrow night for updates from the Europa League matches involving Arsenal and Chelsea. See you then!