PSV missing suspended captain Luuk de Jong against Atletico
EINDHOVEN: PSV Eindhoven will be without suspended captain and striker Luuk de Jong when it tries to break down Atletico Madrid's miserly defense Wednesday in the first leg of their Champions League round-of-16 matchup.
De Jong sparked the dramatic late comeback against CSKA Moscow that sent his team into the knockout phase for the first time since 2007.
But a few minutes before scoring a crucial equalizer that set up PSV's victory over Moscow, De Jong picked up the yellow card that means he will watch Wednesday's game from the stands of the Philips Stadium.
The challenge now facing his teammates is clear.
"You have to get a good result at home," said midfielder Davy Proepper, who scored the 86th-minute winner against Moscow.
PSV is undefeated since that match and has won its last eight league matches to go top of the Dutch Eredivisie. Atletico, meanwhile, has won nine, drawn four and lost three since the end of the group stage.
PSV will be hoping for a better result than the only previous time it met Atletico in Europe the Dutch club lost home and away in the group stage in 2008, including a 3-0 home defeat that included two goals from a young Sergio Aguero.
Atletico, however, has historically had problems against Dutch teams in the knock-out stages. The Madrid team has not won any of its four home-and-away fixtures against Dutch clubs.
Atletico Madrid faces a tough week as the team must hasten home after the match in Eindhoven for Saturday's La Liga derby against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Coach Diego Simeone had a stroke of luck when he heard he would be able to reinforce his squad thanks to an earlier than expected return to fitness of midfielder Augusto Fernandez.
Fernandez's diagnosis after the bruising Jan. 30 clash that ended in a 2-1 defeat at Barcelona was that he had "torn the medial collateral ligament in his left knee" and would be sidelined for "a minimum" of two months.
Just 23 days after the injury, the Argentine international received his medical discharge Monday morning, trained with the squad and was fast-tracked into Simeone's lineup for the match in Eindhoven.
Simeone is traveling with his full attacking lineup of Antoine Griezmann, Fernando Torres, Angel Correa and Luciano Vietto to press for the advantage of an away goal.
With only 11 goals conceded in 25 Spanish league matches, Simeone's main concern is the need to score. His team has scored 35 goals, the lowest amount among La Liga's top seven teams.
With four goals in six Champions League appearances and 19 in all competitions this season, the pressure will be on Griezmann to break through PSV's defense.
However, the France forward hasn't scored in the Spanish league since Jan. 17 when he netted two in a 3-0 win at Las Palmas.
"We have to be more aggressive in attack and when we achieve that we'll attain our objectives," midfielder Jorge "Koke" Resurreccion said.
"Griezmann is a truly great player and his goals will come," Resurreccion said. "They will come when you least expect them."
Also, having broken past his century, Torres will be eager to score his 102nd Atletico goal and his 19th in the Champions League.
PSV may be missing its captain, but it looks like getting a significant boost with the return from injury of arguably its top player this season Andres Guardado.
The 29-year-old Mexico midfielder has not played for PSV's first team since injuring a hamstring in a league match on January 30, but he trained with the squad this week and looks to be fit enough to play Wednesday.
Coach Phillip Cocu said that Guardado had targeted the Atletico match for his return as soon as he suffered the injury against De Graafschap Doetinchem.
"I assume he will be there Wednesday," Cocu said. "And if he isn't, somebody else will step up to the plate."
Guardado knows plenty about Spanish opponents, having played at Deportivo La Coruna and Valencia from 2007-2014. Teammate Hector Morena also has Spanish experience from his four seasons at Espanyol.
PSV has been struggling from the penalty spot of late, missing eight out of 12 before Gaston Pereiro converted a spot kick Saturday night in a 2-0 win against Heracles Almelo.
Cocu has been focusing more on penalty practice in training in an attempt to cure the problem - De Jong, Juergen Locadia and Guardado have all missed this season.
Cocu said he drew up a new list of potential penalty takers after all the misses in recent months. Pereiro's goal on Saturday means he is now the man most likely to take spot kicks.
"Gaston immediately said he felt good and wanted to take it," Cocu said. "If he takes it like that, then he can take the next one, too."