With a new generation of youngsters coming through at PSV Eindhoven, the Dutch champions face a daunting introduction to their UEFA Champions League campaign, but Timmy Simons says "we are as ambitious as ever".
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PSV Eindhoven face a daunting start to their 12th successive UEFA Champions League campaign when they host Club Atlético de Madrid, but captain Timmy Simons believes a reshaped side can meet the challenge.
New PSV coach Huub Stevens may be giving youth a chance this season – six of the team that started Saturday's 1-0 Eredivisie win against Sparta Rotterdam were 23 or younger – yet Simons does not see it as a problem. "The first game in the Champions League hasn't come too early for us," he said. "We have enough experience out there on the pitch, so it's not as if the youngsters have to harbour all the responsibility. We will be fine."
At 31, Simons is an older statesman at PSV and with 35 UEFA Champions League appearances under his belt he acknowledges that he has something of a mentor role. "I am trying to help the young players develop, both on and off the field," explained the Belgian international. "A number of them have adapted extremely quickly as the environment here is conducive to getting the best out of everyone."
Against Sparta, the PSV skipper was partnered in midfield by Ibrahim Afellay, already an established Dutch international at 22, and by 18-year-old Stijn Wuytens. Afellay scored the game's only goal while Wuytens – recently promoted from the youth set-up – put in another assured performance which belied his tender age. The latter did not go unnoticed by Simons, who underlined that his compatriot's "development has been phenomenal".
Comings and goings
The former Club Brugge KV player will also have followed with interest another busy summer for PSV in the transfer market. Notable departures were goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes to Tottenham Hotspur FC and striker Jefferson Farfán, who joined Stevens's old club FC Schalke 04. Filling the gaps were recruits from England, France, the Netherlands, Mexico and Peru, but despite the upheaval, the titleholders have started the Eredivisie with two straight wins. "That hasn't surprised me," said Simons. "Ever since I've been at PSV, there have been major changes from one season to the next, but we've always managed to cope. The team are in good shape and we are as ambitious as ever."