PSV Eindhoven will fancy their chances at home to UEFA Cup rivals Leeds United AFC when they meet in the first leg of their fourth-round tie.
With European football at Elland Road next season far from guaranteed, Leeds United AFC will be making a special effort to ensure that this season's involvement in Europe lasts as long as possible. That aim will be put seriously to the test when David O'Leary's team visit high-flying PSV Eindhoven in the first leg of their UEFA Cup fourth-round tie tonight.
The match is a repeat of the sides' second-round meeting in this competition in 1995/96, from which PSV emerged as 8-3 aggregate winners. The Dutch side would happily settle for a repeat of their 3-0 home victory in that tie and they should certainly enter tonight's first leg with cause for confidence
Dutch going strong
PSV are going strongly in the Eredivisie where they lie a close third behind Feyenoord and leaders AFC Ajax following last weekend's 4-0 win at NEC Nijmegen. Indeed, they would appear to have a better chance of making next season's UEFA Champions League than Leeds, who are in sixth place in the FA Premiership and eight points adrift of Arsenal FC, who currently hold the fourth UEFA Champions League qualifying spot.
Mills promises best behaviour
For this game O'Leary will have available those players currently serving domestic suspensions, such as Alan Smith, Lee Bowyer and Danny Mills. In Mills's case, he is halfway through a six-match domestic ban that has already cost him one game against a Dutch side - last week's international between England and the Netherlands. With England coach Sven-Göran Eriksson travelling to the Philips stadium to watch the game, the full-back needs to be on his best behaviour. "Rest assured, I'll cut out the stupid things I've done," he said
Robbie Fowler is ineligible, having played for Liverpool FC in the Champions League, which means the Leeds manager will be tempted to play Smith alongside Mark Viduka despite his lack of activity. If he does, it will be another blow for Robbie Keane, who is finding it increasingly difficult to forge a career for himself at Elland Road despite having scored in every round of the competition so far. "The only thing you have in the back of your mind is that they haven't played matches, but it's nice to have them fresh going into a game like this," said O'Leary.
Batty takes ferry
So important is the tie to Leeds that David Batty, who has become increasingly fearful of flying, caught a ferry from Hull on Tuesday night and drove to Eindhoven. "There are occasions when David would have to make the longer trips with the rest of the lads by air, but as this was a straightforward journey we didn't see any problems," said O'Leary.
Whoever plays up front for Leeds will face PSV's Dutch international defender Kevin Hofland, who is set to return after a two-week lay-off with concussion - his second such setback in the last month. The return of Hofland, who is rumoured to be a transfer target of Manchester United FC, is a huge fillip for Eric Gerets's side. Also back for PSV after bouts of flu are Wilfred Bouma and Mateja Kezman.
Gerets has a selection poser of his own up front and must choose any two from Kezman, Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink, Arnold Bruggink and John de Jong, who is just back from injury. De Jong figured in PSV's 4-0 defeat of NEC last weekend. Still missing, however, are the injured Ronald Waterreus in goal and Danish international midfield player Jan Heintze.