Preview PSV – Rangers: A dull game on the cards in the City of Light

After being kicked out of the Scottish Cup by Old Firm rivals Celtic, Rangers  remain in the hunt for three trophies. The SPL crown is still within their grasp and the Carling Cup final against the Celts is a realistic chance for domestic silverware. In the Europa League, Rangers face Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven.

The Dutch side have bounced back from a weak start of 2011 with six convincing wins out of the last eight . They drew against rivals Ajax, a game which they dominated and a certain victory was denied by an outstanding performance by Ajax goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg.

Despite losing to this year’s Eredivisie revelation Ado Den Haag (currently fifth after years of relegation battles), PSV are confidently leading the Dutch league with champions FC Twente trailing three points.

The team from Eindhoven (known as the City of Light because of the Philips headquarters) made it into the last 16 of the Europa league by beating current French league 1 leaders Lille and finishing first in their relatively easy group(FC Methalist Kkarkiv, Sampdoria and Debreceni VSC). Fred Rutten, the PSV coach, in the Netherlands known as the most cautious man in football, said his side  face a tough draw against Rangers.

However, his analysis after last week’s Old Firm proves PSV hardly fear the Gers firepower: “The atmosphere was amazing and I saw a lot of passion on the pitch. Rangers are a physically strong side who try to defend well; it will be hard to score against them.”

Rutten might not seem too impressed, but what does his team have to offer when they play host to the Scottish champions?

PSV have a long tradition of finding talented strikers who excel in the Eredivie and later become top goal scorers in Europe’s biggest leagues. Romaria, Ronaldo and Van Nistelrooy are the best examples with  Mateja Kezman and Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink  only scoring convincingly in the Eredivisie or SPL.

A couple of years ago, PSV found another Brazilian wonder kid: Jonathan Reis. After problems concerning his attitude (caught using cocaine) the talented striker was finally on the right track scoring and creating chances like his illustrious countrymen. However an injury leaves him out  for the remainder of the season.

His replacement, Marcus Berg, who is on a loan spell from Hamburg, hasn’t settled into the team. Another striker, Danny Koevermans,  is causing a bit of trouble in the dressing room expressing his unhappiness regarding his lack of playtime. In other words, PSV lack a reliable number 9.

Despite this they are in their most productive season since 2000. Their main threat comes from three players: Jermain Lens, Balasz Dzsudzsak and Ola Toivonen.

Dzsudzsak (left) and Toivonen (right) produced 27 goals and 17 assists in this season's Eredivisie so far

Despite he hasn’t yet showed his top form, Lens is a very fast winger/second striker, deadly on the counter attack. However, PSV’s real entertainers are Toivonen and Dzsudzsak, the latter being the most threatening forward in the Eredivisie with 14 goals and 12 assists. He has a fantastic right foot and great ability to pass his man.

Swedish international Toivonen has stood up to fill the void left by Barcelona midfielder Ibrahim Afellay. He doesn’t have the Dutch international’s quick feet but the Swede compensates with power, strength and good runs into the box.

However, PSV’s problem lies in their lack of movement. Even their star players like Dzsudzsak and Toivonen are better with the ball instead of finding space without it. Thus at times PSV’s play can be static and dull.

Although former Aston Villa Captain Wilfred Bouma is good in moving up the pitch from his position as a centre back, the two central midfielders Bakkal and Engelaar, both physically very strong, lack the quick feet to set up a flowing passing game.

In other words, if Rangers can pressure PSV early on and high up the pitch, PSV have little creativity left than to cross a long ball towards Toivonen or Dzsudzsak.

The goalkeeper, Danish international Andreas Isaksson never looks confident. He is a typical goalie who won’t make to many mistakes in a season but he won’t win you games either. He is particularly vulnerable  for crosses and corners through the air. Rangers should test him as much if they can, even from long-range.

In reality the first match in Eindhoven is not likely to become a classic. Rangers will hope to keep a clean sheet and with a bit of luck score on a counter attack.  PSV will rely on their excellent defensive record and will patiently wait for their forwards to strike.

With the lack of movement in either squad, this could mean that Thursday’s match might become more a battle of fitness and physical strength rather than one in which finesse and technique will determine the outcome.

Strong points
They always score and remain patient
Dangerous on the counter attack
Physically strong midfield

Weak points
Goalie Isaksson
Lack of movement and passing since Ibrahim Afellay left
Without reliable number 9 after injury Reis

Key players:

Stef Meens


2 comments so far

  1. Roel on

    I think, the main weakness of Isaksson is that he is just a goalie. He is bad at participating the game with his feet (the opposite of him is van der Sar). He is a constant keeper, just doing his job nothing more and makes almost no mistakes..

    About Dzsudzsak, he is the most dangerous player of PSV. Free kicks, shots, passes, speed.
    I can add about Toivonen, that he is a great header.

    A talent in the PSV squad is Pieters, a left defender.

    The PSV team is a constant team, with a good defence and with the individual qualities of the key players, they are not an easy opponent!

  2. Roel on

    So, this Dutchman agrees on the preview of Stef ;)!

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