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Injury has had a major impact on the UEFA Cup prospects of PSV Eindhoven and AJ Auxerre, with both clubs losing key men for Thursday's fourth round second-leg tie at the Philips stadium.
The teams drew 1-1 in France on 11 March with PSV's Theo Lucius cancelling out an earlier strike from Auxerre's Teemu Tainio. The two scorers will be missing this time around, while both sides are also without one of their most influential players: Arjen Robben is sidelined for PSV, Djibril Cissé for Auxerre.
Dutch international winger Robben has a torn hamstring while France striker Cissé bruised his foot at the weekend. Both are potential matchwinners but their absences are only the latest in a long line of worries for their respective coaches, Guus Hiddink and Guy Roux.
In addition to Robben and midfield player Lucius, the Dutch champions must also do without André Ooijer, Johann Vogel, Dennis Rommedahl, Ernest Faber and Ibrahim Afellay. On the plus side, defenders Wilfred Bouma and Kasper Bøgelund are available again after recent fitness worries, although the latter is likely to start on the bench.
Despite the absentees, Hiddink opted to accentuate the positive in his pre-match conference. "It would be great for everybody connected with PSV, and for Dutch football in general, if we progressed to the quarter-finals," he said. "The first-leg result was fair, but we should not think that we have already wrapped up the tie. Auxerre are used to playing counterattacking football - the moment we lose possession they are at the other end of the pitch.
We must not be caught unawares. We will have to show great tactical discipline."
After Lucius's headed goal in France, PSV know a goalless draw would be enough to take them through to the quarter-finals of a competition they won in 1978. Yet Serbo-Montenegrin striker Mateja Kezman believes the hosts must go for goals to guarantee their progress. "Defending would be very dangerous," he said. "Therefore we have to put pressure on from the start to try to score the first goal ourselves."
New-look forward line
Kezman will be up against a considerably weakened defence, with Johan Radet and Philippe Mexes still sidelined for the Ligue 1 outfit. Meanwhile, with Bonaventure Kalou's suspension compounding Cissé's absence, Auxerre, who have Olivier Kapo available after a two-match ban, must field a new forward line in Eindhoven.
'Nothing to lose'
"My team is considerably ill-equipped," said coach Roux, whose side have not won in the league since 7 February. "
Even if we were at full strength it would be a difficult task, but half my team is on the sidelines. We're not favourites and have nothing to lose."
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