Atletico face one of their biggest tests this week as they face PSV Eindhoven in an effort to qualify for the quarter finals of the Champions League. In an effort to better understand the Dutch side, we talked to Chaka Simbeye about what PSV were all about.
In what areas can PSV hurt Atletico?
PSV are a team that are very quick on the counter and they will probably play a front three of Gaston Pereiro, Jurgen Locadia and Luciano Narsingh in the absence of Luuk De Jong who is serving a suspension for the first leg. Locadia is quick and strong but lacks the aerial initiative of De Jong to properly hold up the ball so PSV will look to attack with him facing the opposition goal as much as possible.
Atletico probably have the best fullbacks in Europe with Juanfran and Filipe Luis which will create an enticing battle with Santiago Arias and Jetro Willems. All four like to assert themselves in an attacking sense but can also shoulder their defensive responsbilities with valour. Willems who was injured for the first half of the season is back and has 2 assists in his last 2 games as he looks like the player he was last season who had 16 assists in all competitions from left back. Him and Guardado can also provide beautifully whipped set pieces which can trouble even the sturdiest of defences as Guardado has eight 8 assists this season.
What attacking players should Atletico be looking out for and how should Simeone counter their effect?
Gaston Pereiro is Cocu's secret weapon as he has scored 9 goals since he was given a suprise first start against Ajax where he scored a matchwinning brace at the Amsterdam ArenA. He is fleet-footed, quick and brilliant in tight spaces but tends to go missing for large parts of games which Cocu has pointed out before. Luciano Narsingh has been one of the form players of the second half of the season and him and Locadia will be useful outballs for PSV as his pace and crossing ability can hurt teams on the break. To play them both effectively, PSV will have to be quick and fluid on the ball which they are capable of but can be wasteful and pedestrian for large parts of games.
If Atletico sat deep and isolated them, without the proper foil of De Jong, they could be less effective. In midfield, if Cocu decides to start Guardado who has been injured since late January then PSV will have their midfield heartbeat back who posseses a wide passing range and is capable of finding PSV's quick players on the long ball or starting moves which can open spaces and create chances. Davy Propper is also hardworking and a goal threat when he makes his forays forward but does not shirk his defensive duties. PSV can sometimes be accused of an over-reliance on Guardado which can be limited by Atletico squeezing the ball out of him in the press by denying him passing options.
What areas can Atletico Madrid hurt PSV?
Antoine Griezmann, although he is experiencing a goal drought will be the biggest concern for PSV. The effort he puts on the press and his ability to create something special out of nothing will be something that will worry the PSV defence. PSV tend to take their foot of the gas, especially in the second half and that could cost them dearly in the Champions League, especially with the importance of away goals.
Koke's crosses into the box and the second ball, especially with someone like Saul Boria who can cause alot of problems from midfield. Fernando Torres who has 2 in his last 3 should not be taken for granted as he can still score if given the space while Vietto or Correa have the potential to hurt PSV on the break if they push up high as they tend to do. Atletico have players like Godin in set-pieces who will need to be marked while PSV should keep in mind that the visitors have a repetoire of clever set-piece routines.
The press is also a worry as PSV can sometimes be careless on the ball and with a team that hunts the ball down as ferociously as Atletico, they have to be careful with how they utilise the ball, especially in regards to playing out of the back. Atletico have also been good at bringing players off the bench who can influence the outcome of games and PSV will need to make sure they don't fall victim to this in the latter stages of games. Arias who is usually a solid defender can be a liability with his tigerish style of defending as he has received the most red cards in the Eredivisie since the beginning of last season while he also has picked up one this season in the Champions League away vs CSKA Moscow as he also conceded his second consecutive penalty in that game.
How do you see the game going and are PSV confident of victory?
PSV certainly respect Atletico but do not fear them, especially after managing to get out of their group with Wolfsburg, Manchester United and CSKA Moscow. Midfielder Jorrit Hendrix has said that Atletico are on par or just below Real Madrid and Barcelona while recently describing Atletico as a 'fighting machine'. Defender Jeffrey Bruma has also described Atletico as a 'machine' and said Simeone is a 'symbol' of how they play. Cocu has agreed with this and said PSV will have to peak 'twice' to get to the next stage.
The tempo of this game will be exhilirating in the sold-out couldron that is the Phillips Stadion where PSV have won all their games in the Champions League this season. There will be battles for 50/50s all over the pitch with two sets of hardworking midfielders looking to edge eachother out. If Atletico manage to pin back the PSV fullbacks and isolate the attackers then they will most likely win the game. If Willems is given an inch on the flank to cross then he can come up with something special. With that said, the absence of De Jong is a huge blow as Locadia who will play the central striker role only has one goal in the Eredivisie between now and the end of October.
That doesn't inspire much confidence but he has been able to do the business in the KNVB Bekker against Heracles and in the Champions League against Wolfsburg in that time. PSV are capable of shocking Atletico but Atletico are capable of putting PSV in their place so I can't tell where it will go but that is where the excitement lies.
How has PSV's domestic form been heading into the game?
PSV's domestic form has been exemplary going into this game. If they didn't get beaten by Utrecht in the KNVB Bekker a few weeks ago, they would have had 17 games unbeaten in all competitions. They are currently on an 8 game winning streak with three consecutive clean sheets for the first time since 2012 and the first time Cocu has achieved this as a manager. The team is gelling well with Cocu being able to pick his first choice defence for the first time this season in Arias, Bruma,Moreno and Willems while Joshua Brenet has made leaps and bounds covering for Willems and Arias this season. Cocu will have a selection headache in midfield if he decides to start Guardado as Hendrix, Propper and Van Ginkel have all been brilliant recently, he might try to fit them all in midfield to give PSV an edge in midfield. De Jong's absence is a concern but that should encourage PSV to play on the break. PSV come into this mathc as confident as possible.