By Berend Scholten & Andrew Humphrey
Sir Bobby Robson is not expecting any favours from the club to which he brought success in the early 1990s when he takes his Newcastle United FC side to PSV Eindhoven for the first leg of their UEFA Cup quarter-final.
The 71-year-old Newcastle manager guided PSV to consecutive Eredivisie titles after arriving in the Netherlands in 1990, while a short second spell as caretaker coach also yielded success with qualification for the UEFA Champions League in 1998/99. Despite his fond memories, however, Sir Bobby knows there will be no room for sentiment. "PSV aren't doing as well as they'd like in the league but they've had a good run to get this far and they'll want to beat us," he said.
AFC Ajax sit 12 points clear at the Dutch summit with only six league games remaining this season and PSV are facing up to the reality of their failure to retain their title. To make matters worse, their UEFA Cup chances could be hampered by absences. Kevin Hofland is suspended while winger Arjen Robben is still suffering with a hamstring problem and attacking midfield player John de Jong, who signed a new contract this week, picked up a calf injury in Monday's training session.
PSV coach Guus Hiddink is hopeful that at least one of the doubtful players will be able to play, but is unwilling to gamble with their fitness. "
To have a few men back would be excellent, but we will not take any risks with them," he said. There is a good chance that Swiss midfield player Johann Vogel may be available, and Dennis Rommedahl is likely to start after his successful return as a substitute in Saturday's 4-0 victory against RKC Waalwijk.
In common with the home team, the UEFA Cup is Newcastle's one remaining chance of silverware this season, and the visitors have injury problems surrounding two players. Defender Andy Griffin misses out with a thigh problem, while English international midfield player Jermaine Jenas is struggling with a knee ligament injury. Lee Bowyer is still suspended.
With Hiddink wary of the threat posed by Newcastle forwards Alan Shearer and Craig Bellamy, Sir Bobby is equally fearful of PSV's free-scoring striker Mateja Kezman, saying: "He's a great goalscorer - he has an incredible record, good movement and is a good finisher. Knowing Dutch football as I do, we are expecting a tough game."
Despite the challenge his side face, Sir Bobby is relishing his visit to the Philips stadium, having returned to another of his former clubs with Newcastle last season. "When I went back to [FC] Barcelona and the Camp Nou, it was a very special occasion for me," the Newcastle manager said. "It will be just the same when we go to PSV.
"We won the league two years running during my first time in charge and they are great memories.
I spent three years of my managerial life at PSV - three happy years, three great years. PSV is a wonderful club. The people there are fantastic and I am pleased to be going back."
Word of warning
The veteran manager concluded with a word of warning for his former employers, however, saying: "I have nothing but good memories, but I will be going there to try to knock PSV out."
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