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Young guns primed for action

Published: Monday 16 September 2002, 14.17CET
AJ Auxerre's youthful exuberance will test PSV Eindhoven in the sides' Group A opener.

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Published: Monday 16 September 2002, 14.17CET

Young guns primed for action

AJ Auxerre's youthful exuberance will test PSV Eindhoven in the sides' Group A opener.

By Kadira Malkoc & Christian Isnard

AJ Auxerre's name has seldom seemed more apt. The 'Association de la Jeunesse Auxerroise' - or Auxerre Youth Association - are a side brimming with youthful exuberance as they prepare to welcome PSV Eindhoven to the Abbé-Deschamps stadium for their UEFA Champions League Group A opener.

Clear underdogs
Second in the Ligue 1 after a 1-1 draw with FC Sochaux-Montbéliard at the weekend, they have no survivors from the side which reached the last eight of the Champions League in 1997 before losing to eventual winners BV Borussia Dortmund. They will face Dortmund again this time, together with Arsenal FC, in a group they enter as clear underdogs.

Fine prospects
Yet veteran coach Guy Roux can call on some of French football's finest prospects. Strikers Djibril Cissé - last season's 22-goal leading scorer - and Olivier Kapo as well as defender Philippe Mexès are all recent graduates to the France senior squad. Another forward, the Zimbabwean Benji Mwaruwari, is 24, while defender Jean-Alain Boumsong is a French Under-23 international.

'No pressure'
They reached this stage with a 2-1 aggregate defeat of Boavista FC in the third qualifying round and, according to defender Hamdy Faye, are nothing if not positive. "We have no pressure," he said. "We're just delighted to be playing in this competition." Although this is the clubs' first meeting, the omens favour Auxerre against a PSV side who have never won in France, their six visits yielding two draws and four defeats.

Hiddink guarded
However, PSV warmed up by crushing RKC Waalwijk 4-0 last weekend with a hat-trick from Mateja Kezman. Moreover, last season's Dutch runners-up have back at the helm the man who led them to victory in the 1988 European Champion Clubs' Cup, Guus Hiddink. After his success guiding the Korean Republic to the FIFA World Cup semi-finals, Hiddink remains guarded about PSV's prospects in Europe this term.

'We must play better'
"I am content with the result at the weekend but I am not quite satisfied with our overall performance," he said. "We must play better if we want to be successful in our European campaign. We have not really faced tough opponents in pre-season or in our league games yet. PSV were in the third group of clubs [in the draw], so we are not hot favourites. When we play our European games, it will be clear where we stand but right now I don't know."

Van Bommel missing
PSV were quarter-finalists in last season's UEFA Cup after exiting the Champions League after the first group stage. They are missing Mark van Bommel, serving a one-match ban carried over from last season's European campaign, and in his place will play Michael Lamey. On the plus side for Hiddink, Swiss international Johann Vogel will play after recovering from a slight foot injury.

Auxerre lineup
Auxerre will line up in their customary 4-3-3 with Yann Lachuer and Teemu Tainio supporting the front three of Cissé, Kapo and Senegal's Khalilou Fadiga.

Last updated: 16/09/02 20.23CET