What Rangers can expect from PSV - 113-goal talisman, surprise tactics, club legend in charge
There was a period of the Champions League when you simply expected PSV Eindhoven to be in the group stages.
The Dutch giants rubbed shoulders with Europe’s elite in the group stage and sometimes even the knockout stages in 12 consecutive seasons between 1997/98 and 2008/09. It was a time when they, rather than Ajax or Feyenoord, dominated Dutch football.
Between 1996/97 and 2007/08 there were eight Eredivisie titles won and countless careers made or elevated in Eindhoven.
One of the many stars who helped create such a powerful force was Ruud van Nistelrooy. Now, in his first senior managerial job, he has been tasked with taking the club who face Rangers in the Champions League play-off back to the top of the Dutch game and into the group stages.
It has, for a club of its recent history, been somewhat of a dry spell. No Champions League group stage football since 2018/19 when they finished bottom of their group.They have not been a serious contender for a continental title since reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2004/05.
There have been three league titles since the aforementioned success in 2008.
As well as a new manager, Van Nistelrooy stepping up from the club's second side – Jong PSV – who play in the Dutch second tier, to replace Roger Schmidt, they have reshaped the squad which finished second to Ajax.
Eight players have arrived, five of whom are 24 or under, while Ritsu Doan, World Cup winner Mario Götze and Michal Sadilek have been sold for more than £12million. Plus, Bruma and Eran Zahavi have also left.
Talisman, £35m man and tactics
Perhaps the key arrival is talisman and leader Luuk de Jong. A 31-year-old striker who netted the extra-time winner over Monaco in the third qualifying round. It was his 113th goal in 207 games in what is his second spell for the club. He spoke about PSV, who lacked a regular goal scorer last season, being home having played for the likes of Sevilla and Barcelona recently.
When PSV come to Ibrox on Tuesday he will lead the line in what will likely be a variation of 4-3-3. His experience with his back to goal and in front of goal will be vital with young, quick, nimble and creative players around him.
The Dutch side will be doing all they can to keep hold of Cody Gakpo, the left winger who is valued at £35-million and wanted by Manchester United. He provided the second most goals in the Eredivisie last season.
Last season they had the third highest share of possession in the Dutch top-flight. They look to play through teams and opt against crossing the ball. That could change with De Jong’s arrival but on the evidence of this season so far that is unlikely. Rangers should expect players like Gakpo to dribble often with the ball, something Van Nistelrooy liked his players to do for Jong PSV.
Rangers shouldn’t expect to be pressed and harried high up the park. PSV are surprisingly standoffish for such a big team. Over two legs, Monaco dominated possession with the Dutch side, especially away, happy to let them have the ball.
It is set to be a fascinating tie but two sides desperate to return to the Champions League group stages.
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