After their win in the Dutch Super Cup, PSV host Sturm Graz in the first leg of their Champions League qualifying game. Both clubs placed second in their respective domestic divisions last season. PSV’s prior European experience well outweighs the visitors’ continental know-how.
Preview (PSV vs Sturm Graz)
For the Eindhoven juggernauts, life under Ruud van Nistelrooy at PSV appeared to be going swimmingly last season. The former Manchester United striker guided the Lightbulbs to a KNVB-Beker and Dutch Super Cup double. They finished second place in the Eredivisie behind Feyenoord. However, Van Nistelrooy unexpectedly announced his departure with only one game left in the domestic campaign. It was due to a perceived lack of support from the establishment in the hasty divorce. PSV has at least had a successful post-Van Nistelrooy era thanks to the guidance of Dutchman Peter Bosz. He led Lyon to the 2021–22 Europa League quarterfinals until his unavoidable dismissal early in the previous season.
The Lightbulbs are now trying to break a recent Champions League qualifying slump. PSV last advanced to the group stage in the 2018–19 season. Since then, they have failed to advance past the first round four times in a row. In the previous two seasons, they reached the playoff round before losing to Benfica and, most recently, Rangers. Sturm Graz hopes to make their first Champions League group stage participation since the 2000–01 season. The team also qualified for the tournament in each of the two seasons prior to that. They failed to move further on each occasion. Sturm Graz and PSV only faced off once during the 2021–22 Europa League group stage, but it was a humiliating encounter for the Austrian team, who lost 2-0 in the Philips Stadion and 4-1 on their home field.
PSV will have to do without left-back Mauro Junior on Tuesday because of suspensions from last year’s continental events rolling over to the 2023–24 championships. Mauro Junior was dismissed in last year’s Europa League playoff round second-leg match against Sevilla. Patrick van Aanholt will fill in on the left side of the defense for Junior, who was originally scheduled to miss out due to a knee ailment. Armando Obispo, the center defender, will also sit out due to a knee issue.
For the journey to the Netherlands, Ilzer should be able to call upon most of his troops for Sturm Graz, with the exception of winger Alexander Prass, who is unlikely to participate owing to calf concerns. Towering center-forward Emanuel Emegha, a Netherlands youth international who had a nine-goal season in the 2022–23 season, left for Strasbourg, but his replacement Szymon Wlodarczyk has hit the ground running with goals in both of his debut top-flight games. The foreigners have also made some purchases in the British market this summer, including the free transfer of 19-year-old right-back Max Johnston, previously of Motherwell, and the loan acquisition of goalkeeper Kjell Scherpen from Brighton & Hove Albion.
A PSV team on cloud nine following their Super Cup victory should still make quick work of Sturm Graz on their home field, as was the case in the Europa League two seasons ago, even with a relatively small roster and a few defensive absences. The Simons-less Lightbulbs’ performance under Bosz has yet to be seen, and they won’t score like crazy on Tuesday, but the youthful lineup of the visitors lacks the required continental experience to pose a threat to the home team’s backline.
PSV Eindhoven 2-0 Sturm Graz
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