Leeds United AFC chairman Peter Ridsdale has said he would settle for winning the UEFA Cup if the club’s other targets are not to be achieved this season.
Yet the players themselves still have their hearts set on a place in next season’s UEFA Champions League, despite a run of form which has seen the Elland Road club slip to sixth in the FA Premiership table, nine points behind fourth-placed Liverpool FC, who currently occupy the final qualifying slot, with eleven games to go.
After a goalless draw in Holland, the English club may be quietly confident, but as far as PSV are concerned there is still everything to play for. Coach Eric Gerets has drawn satisfaction from the fact that at least his team did not concede a goal at the Philips stadium, while captain Mark van Bommel believes that the home side's style of play should ensure an open game.
The downside is that PSV will be without striker Arnold Bruggink, who was injured in the first leg. John de Jong, who came on for Bruggink in that match, looks certain to play after deputising for him again in the 4-0 win against FC Utrecht last weekend. In that game, Theo Lucius made his comeback from a broken foot and also looks set to start tonight.
Leeds's recent domestic form may not inspire confidence but they have consistently done well in Europe. The same happened last term, when their form in the first half of the Premiership season was not too hot yet their showings in the Champions League were outstanding.
Leeds have taken just three points from their last six league games, a situation which prompted the club last week to submit an application to play in the UEFA Intertoto Cup. Some clubs have felt that such an early start to the season could affect their performance in the domestic league but, as Leeds manager David O'Leary pointed out recently, it does not appear to have done high-flying Newcastle United FC much harm this season.
‘Still time to qualify’
Leeds' captain Rio Ferdinand preferred not to contemplate the possibility. "Don’t talk about us taking part this summer within earshot of our dressing room," he said. "People have been saying that could turn out to be our fate, but I firmly believe there is still time to qualify for the Champions League. We have fallen some way off the pace in the league, but I see no reason why we can't make up the lost ground and finish in the top four."
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