Europa League Picks for Viktoria Plzen vs. Shakhtar Donetsk

Steven Suarez

Monday, February 17, 2014 8:25 PM GMT

Monday, Feb. 17, 2014 8:25 PM GMT

It's the Czech Republic versus Ukraine when Shakhtar and Plzen square off in the first leg of their Europa League knockout tie. What's our preferred soccer pick?

Odds Overview

They may be facing an intense environment inside Doosan Arena, but Shakhtar Donetsk is still the favorite away from home. They can be found at -115 to win outright, with Plzen at +275 and a draw at +215 soccer odds. All of the aforementioned prices can be found at 5Dimes.

Viktoria Plzen

With the Czech Liga not in session at the moment, Viktorka has had to try and keep their form by scheduling friendlies over the last couple of months.

Plzen is currently ranked second in the league, five points behind Sparta Praha. There's still plenty of time left for the side to make up the ground, with the second half of the season set to resume next week.

In Europe, Viktoria couldn't hang in their Champions League group, as they were matched up with Bayern Munich, Manchester City and CSKA Moscow.

In the end, they finished with only one win and now find themselves competing in the Europa League knockout stages.

Stanislav Tecl and Pavel Horvath are the two main guys to watch out for within Viktorka's squad. Tecl leads the team with six goals, but Horvath is a Czech legend who's already considered the best player in Plzen's history. The 38-year old has scored 30 goals in 138 total appearances for the club.

Shakhtar Donetsk

The Miners are flying high in the Ukrainian Premier League – they're first at the moment and are five points clear of both Metalist and Dynamo Kyiv.

With the winter break coming, it's been a while since we've seen Shakhtar in action, but they've been keeping busy, like Plzen, by playing friendlies over the last couple of months. They will resume league play in the first week of March with a showdown against Dynamo Kyiv.

How did the Miners end up here in the Europa League? They were also in a tough group that featured Manchester United, Bayer Leverkusen and Real Sociedad.

In six group stage matches, Shakhtar finished with two wins (both over Real Sociedad), along with two losses and two draws. In the end it wasn't enough to finish above United and Bayer Leverkusen, who moved on to the knockout stages.

Individually, Plzen really have to track Luiz Adriano well. He's scored eight league goals so far. There's plenty of other talent littered within this roster, including Facundo Ferreyra, Darijo Srna, Alex Teixeira and Eduardo Da Silva. Yaroslav Rakitskiy and Douglas Costa have also been influential figures this season.

Europa League Pick

As appealing as the odds are on backing a Plzen win, I'm not sure if they are the smart soccer pick here. We look for the Miners' firepower to ultimately make the difference in what should be a hard-fought 90 minutes of play.

Doosan Arena can be a tough place to play and the visitors will have to show good fortitude to handle the intimate atmosphere. We think Shakthar will do just that and do enough to squeak out the narrow victory.

With a lot of time to prepare for this occasion, we expect this more talented Shakhtar team to record a good performance in the first leg, in hopes of returning home to finish off the job a week later.

Pick: Viktoria Plzen 1 Shakhtar Donetsk 2

comment here