PSV Eindhoven get their Europa League campaign back underway with the first leg of their first knockout round tie against Russian giants Zenit st Petersburg at the Philips Stadion on Thursday. Kick off 6pm.

000 psv guaPSV have been unbeatable in the Eredivisie recently, winning 10 matches in a row to open up a 12 point gap over defending champions Ajax at the top of the table. Phillip Cocu’s side will now look to take this form into the Europa League.

The Eindhoven side finished 2nd in the competition’s group stage and have already faced Russian competition this season, losing 1-0 both home and away to Dinamo Moscow.

PSV suffered an injury blow in the 4-2 win over AZ on Friday with Karim Rekik sustaining an injury which will rule him out of the first leg. During training Cocu has experimented with Jorrit Hendrix, and not Jeffrey Bruma, alongside Nicolas Isimat Marin in central defence and it remains to be seen if the inexperienced duo will start against the fearsome attack of Zenit.

Possible PSV XI: Zoet, Arias, Willems, Isimat-Marin, Bruma/Hendrix, Guardado, Maher, Wijnaldum, Depay, Narsingh, De Jong

Zenit are yet to return to domestic football after their winter break, and their last competitive match was against Monaco in the Champions League, with a 2-0 defeat sealing their exit from the competition. However Andre Villas Boas side comfortably sit atop the Russian Premier League, with a seven point gap over CSKA Moscow.

Central defender Nicolas Lombaerts and midfielder Viktor Faizulin did not travel with the squad to Eindhoven and mill miss the first leg.

Possible Zenit XI: Lodygin, Criscito, Smolnikov, Garay, Neto, Garcia, Shatov, Danny, Hulk, Witsel, Rondon

Previous meetings: The two sides have never met.

Key players to watch

00 ddeeMemphis Depay

The 21-year-old has been undoubtedly the star of the PSV line up this season, with the winger netting 21 goals in 26 appearances, including five in the Europa League. Tipped to become one of the best attackers in world football, Depay is the man who could inspire PSV to victory.

hulkHulk

Like Depay for PSV, Hulk is the star of the Zenit attack, netting eight and adding eight assists so far this season, and he will be the main threat to the PSV defence. A big and strong attacker, Hulk likes to run at opponents and will always attempt long range shots with his powerful left foot.

de jong psv einfsbdhbdLuuk de Jong

The in-form striker netted his second hat-trick of the season against AZ Alkmaar at the weekend, but just scoring goals that makes De Jong important to this PSV side. Against Zenit, PSV will likely play on the counter attack and De Jong’s link up play with wingers Memphis Depay and Luciano Narsingh will be crucial. Nine assists and 19 goals in 32 games this season.

danny zenDanny

Zenit’s captain and influential attacker, Danny will look to attack the PSV defence from behind striker Solomon Rondon, and if he is given too much time he will control the game. The 31-year-old has seven assists so far this season and has pitched in with three goals.

Can PSV win?

Zenit are undoubtedly the strongest team PSV have faced in the competition so far and they will be a major test for Phillip Cocu’s young guns. The uncertainty over the defence may prove crucial with Jorrit Hendrix and Nicolas Isimat-Marin inexperienced at this level and any mistake they make will be punished by an attacking Zenit side. However in Memphis Depay and Luuk de Jong, PSV have two attacking players capable of winning any game.

The Philips Stadion will be rocking and hopefully PSV can take a positive result to Russia next week.




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