Schalke were Champions League semi-finalists 12 months ago and will have their eyes on European glory in 2012.
Only the two Manchester clubs head the Bundelsiga team in the outright betting for the Europa League and, with a kind draw on their side, Huub Stevens’ men could go all the way.
Part of a four-way title tussle in Germany, just five points off the pace in fourth despite a 3-0 defeat at third place Monhengladbach last time out, Schalke breezed through the group stages unbeaten and a last-32 tie with Plzen should hold no fears.
The Czech outfit found Barcelona and Milan way too good in a tough section of Europe’s premier club competition and I also expect them to come up short over two legs against their more decorated opponents.
Schalke plundered 13 goals, including 5-0 and 3-0 away wins against Larnaca and Maccabi Haifa respectively, to reach the knockout stages and they have any number of attacking threats.
Only leaders Borussia Dortmund have won more times than Thursday’s visitors on the road in the German top flight this season and their hosts do concede goals.
With Raul and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar leading the line, Schalke have a prolific partnership that can be relied upon to regularly find the net and Plzen have allowed 11 goals in their previous five home matches in all competitions.
First leg matches are often cagey affairs but neither side is that way inclined and the clash at the Synot Tip Arena should be one of the more entertaining on Thursday.
If it’s an open contest then surely there can only be one winner and Schalke look decent value to me at anything over 2.00 to establish a lead after 90 minutes ahead of the return.
3pts Back Schalke (vs. Plzen) @ 2.10 (various)