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By Matthew Spiro
AJ Auxerre will be looking to put the memory of last season's games against PSV Eindhoven behind them when they take on the Dutch champions in a UEFA Cup fourth round first-leg fixture at the Stade de l'Abbé Deschamps on Thursday.
The sides met in the group stage of the UEFA Champions League last term and it was PSV who came out on top, drawing 0-0 in France and winning 3-0 at home. That loss in Eindhoven ultimately cost Auxerre a place in the second phase, and Guy Roux is keen to put the record straight. "The defeat left me with a bitter taste in my mouth," said the veteran coach.
Lessons to learn
Roux's captain, Yann Lachuer, added: "In life you learn from experience and at least we now have the chance to gain revenge for last season's defeat. It is up to us to avoid making the same mistakes and to show them that we have progressed as a team." Fifth in Ligue 1, Auxerre made few mistakes against Panathinaikos FC in the last round, drawing 0-0 at home despite being reduced to ten men and winning 1-0 in Athens.
Roux will be forced to reshuffle his defence once more after Philippe Mexes picked up a calf injury at the weekend and joined fellow defenders Jean-Alain Boumsong and Johan Radet on the sicklist. Mexes will be replaced by Jean-Pascal Mignot, while Jean-Joël Perrier-Doumbé takes Radet's place at right-back. Stéphane Grichting, Boumsong's likely replacement, is expecting a difficult night. "We had trouble at home against Panathinaikos and PSV are a notch above them, but we can do it," said the Swiss international.
Kanga Akalé should deputise for the suspended Olivier Kapo on the left of midfield, while Bonaventure Kalou will play on the right behind the lone striker Djibril Cissé. Kalou, who won the UEFA Cup with Feyenoord in 2002, has been a lucky charm for the French Cup winners in Europe this season, scoring three goals including the winner against Panathinaikos.
Six of the PSV side which started that defeat of Auxerre in October 2002 featured in Sunday's 4-0 victory against FC Utrecht, a result which moved Guus Hiddink's side back to within six points of AFC Ajax. Johann Vogel and Kasper Bøgelund would also have featured but were ruled of that match and Thursday's first leg with hip and muscle injuries respectively.
'Follow that line'
Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink is available for selection, though, after recovering from the thigh injury which saw him limp out of the 3-1 home victory against AC Perugia in PSV's last UEFA Cup outing. Hiddink's side entered this competition via the Champions League, where they were unbeaten in their final four games, winning three of them. The coach has called on his players to "follow that lead" in France.
"After two opening losses we performed well in a number of games," Hiddink continued. "
Auxerre are a side which allow you plenty of possession and then, bang, they strike. We must try to sustain as little damage as possible but we can only achieve that if we are dominant in defence and midfield." Time will tell whether they are.
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