Club Atlético de Madrid's Dutch defender John Heitinga warned that PSV Eindhoven will "be fighting to remain in Europe" as the Spanish side aim to seal their progress from Group D with a game to spare on Wednesday.
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Club Atlético de Madrid defender John Heitinga warned that PSV Eindhoven will "be fighting to remain in Europe" when the Group D game between the teams kicks off in the Spanish capital on Wednesday.
Heitinga is no stranger to the Eredivisie side having spent seven seasons with PSV's rivals AFC Ajax before moving to Atlético, so he is aware of the danger Huub Stevens' men pose. "PSV are a top Dutch team," the 25-year-old said. "Maybe they have a little less quality now than in previous years, but this is the Champions League and they are here by right. Playing in this competition will lift them, that's why all games at this level are very difficult."
The Dutch international was in the Atlético lineup when the clubs met on Matchday 1 and, as he prepares for his 16th appearance in Europe's élite tournament, nothing would please him more than a repeat of that 3-0 triumph in Eindhoven. "The important thing for us is to qualify, that's all we're concentrating on," Heitinga said. "We have to try to seal our place in the next round as soon as possible, and we'll be working flat out to achieve that. We're going to be fully focused and we know we have to get on with the task despite the fact there will be no fans inside the stadium."
A victory would take group leaders Atlético through, as would a draw should second-placed Liverpool FC avoid defeat at home to Olympique de Marseille. Heitinga, who has made eight Liga starts and three more in the UEFA Champions League this term, underlined the importance of knowing that the team will be competing in Europe after Christmas. "It's a huge boost for you to know that when you come through the winter, you will continue to play in continental competition. That's the motivation for us and also for PSV. They would like to stay in the Champions League, but if they can't do that then they know they have to fight for a place in the UEFA Cup."