PSV Eindhoven v Arsenal
Three points tonight for PSV will see them storm into the knockout stage of the Champions League as group winners, quite a turnaround after losing their opening fixture of the group at Highbury.
Arsenal, on the other hand, will be desperate to get back top winning ways. They have drawn all three games since that 1-0 victory and defeat will potentially leave them having to beat Panathinaikos in two weeks time to avoid an early exit.
A record European crowd of 35,100 is expected at the sold-out Philips stadium and PSV coach Guus Hiddink is loooking forward to the challenge. “This is what it is all about – the special games,” he said.
PSV will qualify regardless of the result of this match if Panathinaikos lose at Rosenborg.
Hiddink added: “It is fantastic to see all the work we have put in the last year paying off. It would be wonderful to wrap things up.”
Gunners manager Arsene Wenger has seen his team concede the Premiership lead to Chelsea in recent weeks and Arsenal have also managed to draw their last three Champions League matches despite having led in each.
The Frenchman is not worried though, saying: “We have still only lost one game all season. If we panic, the whole of Europe should panic. I have complete confidence in my players. I always expect a lot from them and I’m never disappointed.
“Over the next two games I am sure we will show that we have learned a lot and are good enough to play at the very top level.”
They will have their work cut out against a PSV side who have not conceded a goal in 900 minutes of domestic football, and only two overall in Europe.
Of the previous encounter at Highbury, Hiddink said: “We managed to control them for much of the game but we did not have the power to harm them.
“My hope for PSV is that we are more balanced this time. We have players who can cause them concerns and we will try and hit them where they are vulnerable.”
The “vulnerability” that Hiddink refers to has largely been attributed to the absence of Sol Campbell in defence. Campbell has returned to full training after a calf injury and, despite a minor stomach upset, may be risked tonight such is his importance.
Wenger was cagey about the subject though, saying: “He is physically ready to play and it’s a boost that he could travel with us. We need his defensive and organisational skills at the back, but I’m not sure yet if he will play.”
Dennis Bergkamp has not made the trip while Gilberto Silva, Edu and Gael Clichy are all missing too.
As for PSV, striker Gerald Sibon could come into the team after Jan Venegoor tore a ligament in his shoulder against Vitesse on Sunday. He will be out until 2005. Sibon scored one and made the other in PSV’s 2-0 win.
Both coaches expressed their respect for their opponents.
“Despite their relatively poor spell, you cannot expect Arsenal to fold,” said Hiddink.
“They are always in a position to hurt you with their individual performances. They never panic, they are skilful and the players are not attacking each other despite their recent problems. You can never relax against them, they are always a danger.”
Wenger said: “PSV are a good side but we have had good results away from home and will not feel handicapped playing here.”
He also believes Arsenal’s 4-0 win here two years ago gives his players a psychological edge.
“It will be on the mind of the PSV players because they know we can come here and beat them,” he said.
PSV may also remember the game because Gilberto Silva scored after just 20 seconds – the fastest goal ever scored in the Champions League.