The games seem to be coming thick and fast now. Tonight we welcome familiar visitors, PSV Eindhoven. This will be our fifth meeting in two years. Remember we played them four times in the 2006-07 Champions League, twice in the group stage and then in the knock out part?
Are PSV any different from the side we beat in three of these games? They are without Ronald Koeman who left them for an ill fated managerial stint at Valencia and are now managed by Huub Stevens. I’ve never heard of him before but was delighted to find out that he has made 18 international appearances for Holland meaning that should you ever meet him you can say “Show us your Huub caps”?
This season the signs seem to suggest that PSV are beatable, as any side should be when we face them at Anfield? Over the weekend they were booed off as they struggled to beat Volendam who sit at the bottom of the Dutch League. Add to that the 3-0 thrashing Atletico Madrid gave them at home in the first game of this group and perhaps the signs are encouraging? However, if Dirk Kuyt is qualified to talk abut the PSV threat then he’s a Dutchman!
“They are very different from the last time we played against them: Gomez, the goalkeeper, is now at Spurs; Phillip Cocu has retired; and a lot of other players have also gone to other clubs. They are a totally different side but they are still the best in Holland. They have won the league six times in a row, I think, so they’re a very good team and we have to be ready.”
Whatever the statistics, or the opposition, it is of course vital, at this stage of the competition, that we win our home games and then try to pick up whatever we can on the road. As we nearly found out to our cost when we slipped up against Marseille last season if you don’t collect points at home then trouble can quickly arise.
Thankfully we’ve already got three points from our trip to Marseille but of course it’s far too early to be complacent. A win tonight would see us going into the next game and probably the hardest of the group, Atletico Madrid away, in good shape and being able to say that a failure to win would not be a disaster? However, it should be foot on the accelerator all the way until we qualify. Only then can we think about easing up and resting palyers. Failure to do so might see a repeat of last year when we were forced to play catch up and didn’t achieve qualification until the last group game. This added pressure surely transferred itself to our league form around that time – remember the Reading game, played the Saturday before our vital trip to Marseille?
Team wise Mascherano and Benayoun are available for selection. Said Rafa on the website.
“Both players trained this morning and are fit. We will have another training session in the morning but at the moment we have a fully fit squad.”
Good news but Rafa might have problem, albeit a nice one. I suspect the Argentinean will be drafted in but Rafa might find it difficult to drop Alonso to accommodate him. Since an indifferent performance against Middlesbrough, Xabi has really put a shift in when it mattered. Against Everton and The Mancs he was outstanding proof, if ever it were needed, that plans to transfer him this summer were foolhardy ones? Either way, with our next Premiership game being on Sunday, Rafa needn’t worry about tiredness.
Prediction? Confidence will be high from Saturday just as it was when we beat The Mancs. We all know what happened after that so we must avoid the same pitfall. Lesson learnt? I hope so and I’ll go for 2-0 to us with Keane (come on, it’s got to happen soon) and Kuyt netting.
Enjoy the game.