Despite leading his side into uncharted waters against PFC CSKA Moskva, new captain Timmy Simons is confident of a PSV Eindhoven victory in the Netherlands.
Despite leading his side into uncharted waters against PFC CSKA Moskva on Wednesday, new captain Timmy Simons is confident he can steer PSV Eindhoven to victory.
Breaking new ground
The opening Group G encounter between the champions of the Netherlands and Russia will see Ronald Koeman's men break new ground. Remarkably, during 12 UEFA Champions League campaigns – including the last eleven in a row – PSV have never faced Russian opposition, nor have they met a Russian team in any other UEFA competition.
Belgian international Simons admits that he does not know too much about CSKA, although he does have an idea of what to expect at the PSV Stadium. "We played in Moscow during pre-season when we won the Russian Railway Cup, and we saw [FC] Lokomotiv [Moskva] in action in the same tournament. They made quite an impression. I think CSKA will be difficult opponents."
This summer the Eredivisie title-holders lost two talismanic players. Midfielder Phillip Cocu moved to Al-Jazira Club in the United Arab Emirates, while defender Alex joined Chelsea FC. However, it is testimony to the remarkable resilience of the Eindhoven club that, once again, they have survived the loss of key personnel. "Players like Timmy have helped to compensate," said coach Ronald Koeman. "They step up and take responsibility."
Keeping things tight
The 30-year-old Simons, who succeeded Cocu as skipper, does not feel things have changed too much. "My task is much the same as before," he said. "I am there primarily to help the defence and keep things tight at the back." It is a duty he has performed with remarkable success – PSV have kept clean sheets in their first four games of the domestic season.
PSV's recent UEFA Champions League record is equally impressive. They qualified from the group stages of the last three editions but when asked if this raises expectations, Simons gives a typically forthright answer. "Our ambition is always the same in this phase of the competition. We want to reach the next round. And we know that if you're playing at home, regardless of the opposition, you should be aiming for three points. That's what we'll be doing."