What: Europa League (Round of 32)
Who: PSV Eindhoven vs Lille
When: Thursday 24th February, 2011, at 18:00 UK Time
Where: Philips Stadion, Eindhoven, Netherlands
Too Tough to Die
At the start of 2011, PSV lost two key players: creative midfielder Ibrahim Afellay – sold to Barcelona – and striker Jonathan Reis – sidelined through a knee injury. The Philips-backed club’s poor financial situation however meant that coach Fred Rutten could not enter the transfer market for replacements. The Dutch giants are well on their way to achieving their objectives though and sit top of the Eredivisie, while they have also shone in the Europa League. Indeed, PSV have performed quite brilliantly thus far, both domestically and in Europe.
Last week, PSV’s first leg against Lille was a game filled with ups and downs. After a disappointing first half, "we didn’t win a single duel", said Rutten, the Eindhoven side came back from 2-0 down to record a useful 2-2 draw in the dying minutes. "We could have also scored the third", bemoaned the PSV coach, "but honestly it would have been too much. Anyway, I am satisfied with the mentality the team showed in the second half, in which we controlled the game." In France, PSV showed strong character and a never-say-die attitude, two of their greatest qualities.
The club’s top scorers this season are left winger Balazs Dzsudzsak (19 goals) and Swedish striker Ola Toivonen (18), a forward deployed by Rutten as a creative midfielder in a system that comes very close to being a 4-2-4. And even though the Swede is still searching for real consistency, he is quickly becoming a key player for the Dutch side. Veterans like Wilfred Bouma and Orlando Engelaar are vital for PSV, shoring up the midfield and defence, while up front Marcus Berg is still desperately seeking the cold-blooded composure in front of goal that was his trademark at Groningen two years ago.
Still Looking for European Maturity
Over the last two seasons it can be argued that Lille have played some of the most pectacular football in Ligue 1. Their numbers are impressive: 72 goals scored in the 009/10 campaign and 42 so far this time, a season in which they top the French league – espite a weekend defeat away to Montpellier. "It’s hard to tell what the secrets of this Lille’s op performances are", pondered Belgian talent Eden Hazard. "In my opinion, it is something that has to do with the Spanish football philosophy our coach Rudi Garcia brought here.Relatively speaking, Lille’s style of play can be compared with Barcelona’s. An attacking mentality, ball possession and exuberant approach."
Lille’s Europa League campaign however has been far from their impressive domestic fare. Les Dogues (The Mastiffs) are still looking to hone their European approach, with key performers like Moussa Sow – the current Ligue 1 top scorer -, Ivory Coast star Gervinho and in-demand Hazard unable to impress as they do domestically. For Garcia, the reason for this is simple: too many games played. "It’s virtually impossible for a club like Lille to be a contender for the championship, the domestic cup and the Europa League at the same time. We don’t have a large squad. Every game gets harder. In the French Cup, we beat Ligue 2 outfit Nantes only on penalties. While last week PSV scored two goals against us in the last minutes. You can’t always do your best when you play twice in a week."
Despite a dip in Europe, Lille remain a team that cannot be underestimated. A strong midfield group of Florent Balmont-Rio Mavuba-Yohan Cabaye, a sold central defender in Adil Rami – who will head to Valencia in the summer – and one of the best keepers in Ligue 1 in Mickael Landreau, have made the northern France side a well-balanced team. Considering their undoubted talent up front, with Brazilian hitman Tulio de Melo one to watch too, Lille have everything they need to progress in the Europa League.
Players to watch
PSV Eindhoven – Balazs Dzsudzsak: Currently the club’s top scorer, the Hungarian winger also has 12 assists to his name. Dzsudzsak has a quick turn of pace and exceptional ability to beat his man, making him a nightmare for any defence – throw in a powerful shot too and he is a handful of trouble. Though left-footed, a brace scored against AZ two weeks ago demonstrated perfectly that his right is not just for standing on. The Hungarian recently signed a new deal with PSV until 2015, ending rumours about a possible departure for free next year. "His contract extension fits our ambitions", said PSV technical director Marcel Brands.
Lille – Eden Hazard: For Lille’s coach Rudi Garcia, "Eden is not a nugget, he is a mine". For Zinedine Zidane, "he’s a player I would take to Real Madrid with my eyes closed". Arsene Wenger would also like to see Hazard pulling on an Arsenal jersey. In 2010, the Belgian international, who made his debut with Lille aged 16 years, 10 months and eight days old, was handed the Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year award for the second time in a row. In the 2009/10 Europa League campaign, Hazard found the back of the net four times, including a wonderful solo goal against Genoa. This year however, he is still looking for his first – Lille may need him to find it if they are to survive in Eindhoven.
Both PSV and Lille play attacking football, moving the ball around quickly and developing the game along the flanks. They both have strong tactical organisation too, making this an intriguing battle. The Dutch surely take to the pitch in better heart, due to their first leg comeback. PSV will try to control the game and hit the French with quick counter attacks. This match looks a 60-40 clash in favour of PSV, who will win 2-1.
Fonte: Inside Futbol