An extensive analysis of the other clubs in PSV’s group as well as a look at their prospects as they enter the group stage for the first time in 6 years.

  • By Chaka Simbeye
  • Follow Chaka on Twitter

psv squPSV are back in the Champions League group stage for the first time since the 2008/09 season after dominating the Eredivisie from start to finish last season. They will have their work cut out for them in their long awaited return as they are placed in the same group as Bundesliga runners-up VFL Wolfsburg, English Premier League giants Manchester United and Russian dynamo’s CSKA Moscow.

“It is a very tough draw, but on the other hand it is also great to play against Manchester United and welcome Louis van Gaal and of course Memphis Depay. CSKA Moscow and Vfl Wolfsburg are two very strong opponents. We expect some tough games but it will motivate us even more”, said manager Phillip Cocu upon hearing of their Champions League group.

PSV have spent most of their pre-season acclimating themselves to European competition with matches against the likes of FC Basel, Olympique Lyonnais, Valencia CF and Monaco within a short period of days. Phillip Cocu is focused on implementing a more proactive playing style focused on dominating games in the opposition half but it will be interesting to see if he employs a counter-attacking style for the Champions League.

Former PSV captain Georginio Wijnaldum and top scorer Memphis Depay have both departed to the English Premier League while bombarding left-back Jetro Willems has succumbed to knee injury which should keep him out for the opening games of the Champions League. Wijnaldum has been replaced by Vitesse Arnhem’s Davy Propper, but there is a contrast in style between the two. The former is an energetic box to box presence while the latter presents a more languid midfield maestro style.

According to Opta Statistics, Propper led the Eredivisie charts with most passes in the final third with 375 and already has two assists for PSV this season. Him, combined with the grace and maturity of Adam Maher and Andres Guardado can make for a very possessive midfield.

Along with Propper, Maxime Lestienne was signed on a season-long loan from Al Arabi as he seeks to finally make good on his early promise in Belgium. The 23 year-old Belgian already has a goal and an assist to his name this season while experienced centre-back Hector Moreno was signed from Espnayol, forward Gaston Pereiro from Nacional and defender Nicolas Ismait-Mirin was retained on a permanent contract from Monaco while experienced left back Simon Poulsen was signed from AZ Alkmaar.

memphis m goalManchester United

It was written in the stars that Memphis Depay would return to the Phillips Stadion at the first time of asking as Manchester United will play away to PSV in the opener. Depay will probably be the first one out of the dressing room greeting his former teammates and staff while probably receiving a plaque or a gift of some sort for his exploits at PSV. However, PSV must not be caught in the centimentalism of their returning hero Depay and focus on the Louis Van Gaal led English outfit.

United have had to deal with the David De Gea situation after a move to Real Madrid on deadline day fell through with Real Madrid and Manchester United pointing fingers at eachother. Former AZ Alkmaar goalkeeper Sergio Romero has been deputising with limited success from the beginning of the season.

The Red Devils have a heavy midfield to compensate for short numbers in attack and defence as Van Gaal seeks to fully implement his system in his second season. His team currently pose more questions than answers as his fine array of midfield talent causes a selection headache for the former Dutch National Team boss. Daley Blind is not included on that list as Van Gaal seeks to make him an intuitive, commanding centre-back presence next to Chris Smalling. They are flanked by Luke Shaw on the left and Italian Matteo Darmian on the right in a defence that has its fair share of cracks.

In the deeper roles in midfield, United possess the likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Morgan Schneiderlin, Michael Carrick and Ander Herrera while Marouane Fellaini seems out of his depth in a deep midfield role and will be played further forward. All possess their own individual ability making them different from the next and it will be interesting to see who Van Gaal picks to fill his two positions.

Manchester United’s approach play in the final third is all about synchronised movements and players interchanging positions. Depay has slotted in on his favoured role on the left flank and in a more central role dovetailing Wayne Rooney as United seek to find a reliable path to goal. Juan Mata is a midfielder capable of scoring and creating and is at his best in a fluid Manchester United lineup when he is allowed to make forays into the box. Ashley Young has looked reborn under Van Gaal and will seek to push for a first team place with Antonio Valencia.

Anthony Martial has been signed for an astronomical sum and could either be played on the flanks or up top. Wayne Rooney is the focal point of the foraward line and most of the movements revolve around him. His positioning in a lone-striker role brings up questions like when he vacates the central striking role to drop deep or drift wide, who occupies the position?

Manchester United versus PSV will be an intriguing match as Phillip Cocu pits his wits against another Dutch manager of much greater experience. A rigid and well-organised PSV should be enough to unsettle this particular Manchester United side but the Red Devils thrive on mistakes and un-coordination as well as still have the quality to push PSV aside.

dost wolfsWolfsburg

Although Wolfsburg have lost their main creative hub in Kevin De Bruyne, they still aren’t a team to be trifled with. They have signed Schalke’s burgeoning talent in Julian Draxler who looks to make an illustrious football career away from the Veltins Arena like the likes of Mesut Ozil and Manuel Neuer. They are team that like to press teams high and control the game while also trying to maintain balance between defence and attack.

The dimunitive bundles of energy in Vierinha and Dani Caligiuri provide defensive support as well as industry in attack with their ability to create wide options to spread play or overload the central positions. Up front, Dieter Hecking has to choose among Max Kruse who was signed as a reliable Bundesliga goalscoring option from Borussia Monchengladbach while Dutchman and last season’s top scorer Bas Dost and the enigmatic Nicklas Bendtner will provide stern competition for him. However, Hecking has began the Bundesliga season with Kruse in the hole and Dost up front.

In the deeper-midfield role Joshua Guilavogui and Luiz Gustavo are in a double-pivot of the Wolves’ 4-2-3-1 but in the absence of Gustavo last season, Maximilian Arnold played next to Guilavogui. Arnold had the distribution and technical awareness to impress in the deeper role last season and will challenge Guilavogui for the position. Guilavogui provides an intimidating frame with his height and is more adept defensively than the young German. However, he was a target against high-pressing teams due to his sometimes clumsy nature on the ball. Gustavo is the security blanket in front of the Wolves’ defence and is ever-reliable in European football.

When one talks about young ultra-attacking left-backs in North Brabant, you can assume the coversation is about Jetro Willems but in Wolfsburg, it is certainly about Ricardo Rodriguez. The 23 year-old from Switzerland is a creative force from the left flank as he is adept at playing crosses and searching long balls. It is a hope that both fanbases can witness both players on the same pitch. Timm Klose and Naldo aren’t the most spectacular centre-back partnership but they are the glue that hold the defense together as they complement each other perfectly.

Klose is the more disciplined defender while Naldo is the defender will to drive the ball forward or step out of the defensive line to make tackles and interceptions. Naldo is also a source of danger in the final third with his sumptuous free-kicks and aerial ability from corners. Trasch at right-back is more conservative than Rodriguez and can win the ball at the back while also providing an option for passes when Wolfsburg are building up play or slowing down the tempo.

Diego Bengalio and Koen Casteels are two very solid options for the Germans to have in goal. On the first day of the second-half of last season, Wolfsburg obliterated Bayern Munich with a variant of direct counter-attacking football with De Bruyne and Dost bagging two goals each. However, in a Europa League second-leg with Napoli after securing a 2-2 draw away in the first leg, they themselves were swept aside by Napoli’s direct style of football bypassing their high-press and their high-defensive line. Dieter Hecking has the tactical nous to mix things up but Wolfsburg certainly aren’t unbeatable.

doumbia cskaCSKA Moscow

CSKA Moscow have began their Russian Premier League season with 7 wins and as frequent competitors in the Champions League, they possess more experience than PSV and Wolfsburg. CSKA Moscow are renowned for being a tough team away in the cold, intimidating couldron that is the Arena Khimki. They are led by Leonid Slutsky who is also currently serving as head coach of the Russian National Team, after the departure of Fabio Capello.

In goal Igor Akinfeev can be one of the most reliable keepers in the game but has an error in him. However, Slutsky and CSKA Moscow have long stuck by the Russian as at his best, he can be heroic and have a calming effect on the defence in front of him.

In defence, they have the vastly experienced, battle-hardened and ever-present duo of Vassili Berezutski and Sergei Ignashevitch who are a combined age of 69. They are flanked by Kirill Nababkin and Mario Fernandes. In midfield, there is a familiar face to followers of the Eredivisie in Pontus Wernbloom who played for AZ Alkmaar and is the hard-man in front of CSKA’s defence.

In fact in a European encounter between AZ Alkmaar and BATE Borisov in 2010, it was Wernbloom who made way for a 17 year-old Adam Maher who immediately scored and became the youngest Dutch goal scorer in European competition breaking a record held by Rafael Van Der Vaart. There will be an intriguing battle between Wernbloom and Maher, 5 years on. Bibras Natkho plays a more deep-lying playmaker role in Slutsky’s 4-2-3-1 formation as he is the main hub of possession control.

Alan Dzagoev who is one of Russia’s most talent players, can play anywhere in the 3 behind the striker as well as in a deeper role will be one of CSKA’s danger men as he possesses the ability to create and score while having a strong drive and sense of team ethic to graft for his team by contributing defensively. Former Manchester United youth player Zoran Tosic, holds down a role on the left flank as he is reliable in possession and is also a potent goal threat.

Ahmed Musa has been a thorn in the side of most of Europe’s big teams as his searing pace and hunger for goals can unsettle, even the most rigid defences. The skillful Nigerian can either play out-wide or in the lone striker role where he constantly seeks to unhinge defences with his rapid play on the front foot. Seydou Doumbia has returned CSKA Moscow after an unspectacular stint at Serie A side AS Roma as the Ivorian marked his return with 3 goals in the qualifying phase.

CSKA Moscow are comfortable in possession of the ball while also adept at playing quick and lethal breaks on the counter-attack as they could prove to be a surprise package in the group and the competition as a whole. The trips to Russia and their opponents attempts to negate the time change in the country could also work in their favour. PSV were knocked out of the Europa League last season by Zenit St Petersburg after Oscar Hiljemark lost possession to Axel Witsel which led to a Solomon Rondon goal which led to 1-0 home loss in a match they could’ve won while they were on hand to receive a mauling in St Petersburg. It will be a hope that their young team has come out the wiser from that experience.

PSV haven’t been dealt a tough group of Ajax proportions but still have an incredibly tough group in which all the participants have a strong claim to the two knockout phase spots. The Champions League is unrelenting and unforgiving no matter where and who you’re playing as Ajax have already learned and PSV need to put their best foot forward in the group stage. The Dutch have gained coefficient points for having four of five teams qualify for the group stages in Europe with three teams in the Europa League and one in the Champions League but it is has been too long since we last saw a team do well in both competitions.

Chaka Simbeye (69 Posts)