MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) analyses Wednesday night’s Champions League tussle between PSV Eindhoven and Atletico Madrid.
PSV Eindhoven v Atletico Madrid | Wednesday 19.45 | BT Sport 2
No Dutch side has played knockout Champions League football since 2007 but PSV Eindhoven bucked that trend by qualifying in second-place behind Wolfsburg and ahead of Manchester United in Group B.
The Eredivisie champions pocketed a maximum nine points from nine at their Philips Stadion home, netting at least twice in all three of their group games. And with eight successive wins on the spin bringing Philip Cocu’s side back to the top of their domestic table, the Peasants look on course to retain their title.
It’s been a fabulous campaign for PSV. The club lost their two standout stars last summer as Memphis Depay and Georginio Wijnaldum were snared by Premier League clubs but after a reasonably slow start (W7-D3-L3) to life in 2015/16, the Peasants are back in business.
Cocu has guided the side to W16-D3-L2 across their last 21 matches in all competitions as they scored at least twice in 17 of those games. As hosts PSV have W14-D2-L1 this term, notching two or more goals in 15 of those Philips Stadion matches and netting in all 17.
Now all that is fine, dandy and deserves a wee pat on the back but nothing more. The strongest opponents to visit the Dutch outfit this season have been United, Wolfsburg, CSKA Moscow and Feyenoord – none of those four clubs come close to what they’ll encounter on Wednesday night.
And PSV’s arduous task has been made even tougher to complete due to three significant and key absentees this midweek. Maxime Lestienne was arguably the Peasants’ best performer in the group stages – scoring twice and delivering two assists – but the Belgian winger misses out through injury along with Mexican mystros Andres Guardado.
However, PSV’s major missing man is 23-goal top scorer Luuk de Jong who’s suspended. Jurgen Locadia has been tipped to replace Cocu’s star hitman but the opportunity for an upset has vastly diminished without the absent trio.
When you go into battle with Atletico Madrid, you need to be ready for an arm-wrestle. So taking on Diego Simeone’s side without three of your best offensive threats is far from an ideal scenario for the hosts.
Los Rojiblancos saw their La Liga title dreams go up in smoke after a goalless draw with a stubborn Villarreal side on Sunday night but the Spaniards remain one of Europe’s best knockout teams. The 2014 finalists are intelligent, exceptionally organised and boast lion-sized hearts that are epitomised by their exhausting work-rate.
The visitors have a date with bitter rivals Real Madrid at the Bernabeu on Saturday but don’t be fooled into believing their attention might be elsewhere – Atleti’s eyes will be on the Champions League prize and leaving Eindhoven unscathed.
I expect the Mattress Makers do to just that. The La Liga side have kept clean sheets in 11 of their last 15 Champions League games as well as in 12 of their 19 road trips this term. No side has won more away games domestically than Los Rojiblancos’ total of nine (W9-D1-L3) and they picked up seven points during their group-sage travels.
Of course, Antoine Griezmann’s lack of goals – he’s managed a solitary strike in his previous seven fixtures – is a concern but the French forward is too good to endure a long barren streak and is well overdue a goal.
We know Atletico like to keep things tight but I do fancy Simeone’s side to steal a goal to take first leg honours back to Madrid. The 10/11 (Betway) on an away victory seems more than fair but I’m not in the mood for backing odds-on shots.
So how about correct scores of 1-0 (11/2 BetVictor) and 2-0 (8/1 BetVictor) in Los Colchoneros’ favour? A huge 17 of Atletico’s 21 triumphs across La Liga and the Champions League came alongside clean sheets whilst they’ve shutout seven of their 10 hosts across both competitions.
Include all formats and the Mattress Makers have shipped just eight goals in 19 outside their Vicente Calderon home with 14 of those fixtures featuring fewer than three goals.
In last season’s Champions League, Atletico saw three of their four knockout matches finish in 1-0 scorelines, alongside one goalless game. It fits the general picture we have that the visitors will try to squeeze the life out of the contest and make the first leg a low-scoring showdown.
With that in mind, I’m also inclined to back the 0-0 half-time correct score at 13/8 with Coral too. It’s paid out in all five of Atleti’s first leg ties in knockout Champions League football since 2013/14 and offers a more punter-friendly price than the odds on offer opposing a goal-heavy game.
PSV Eindhoven v Atletico Madrid – Atletico Madrid to win 1-0 (11/2 BetVictor)
PSV Eindhoven v Atletico Madrid – Atletico Madrid to win 2-0 (8/1 BetVictor)
PSV Eindhoven v Atletico Madrid – 0-0 half-time correct score (13/8 Coral)
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