PSV Eindhoven play host to Sturm Graz on Thursday evening knowing that victory will keep their Group B fate in their own hands.
While the home side are focused on trying to qualify for the Europa League knockout stages, Sturm Graz need all three points to stay in the hunt for a Europa Conference League spot.
After suffering back-to-back defeats against Monaco and Ajax in October, PSV had experienced untimely blows in two competitions, leaving Roger Schmidt under a certain level of pressure.
However, three successive victories on the domestic front, combined with a goalless draw away in Monaco, has gotten things very much back on track ahead of an important period of the season.
Perhaps most importantly, PSV have shown more resilience at the back, the only goal being conceded in seven halves of football being an own goal at Fortuna Sittard.
Despite being a free-scoring side, no-one has scored more than five times in the Eredivisie, Bruma emerging as that player with three goals in his last two appearances.
While currently sitting in third place in Group B, PSV know that victory on Thursday night would see them make up significant ground on Monaco and Real Sociedad above them.
With two matches remaining, Sturm Graz have already been eliminated from the Europa League, the Austrian side instead left to focus on trying to earn a spot in the Europa Conference League after Christmas.
However, a place in that competition is already unlikely with just one goal and one point coming from four matches, leaving them requiring all three points in the Netherlands.
On the back of a six-match winless streak, Christian Ilzer may value respectability over possessing any genuine hope of edging out their next opponents for third spot.
To their credit, they produced a stunning comeback at the weekend, fighting back from three goals adrift at home to LASK Linz to record a 3-3 draw.
Kelvin Yeboah scored two of Graz’s goals, taking his tally for the season to 12 in all competitions.
PSV Eindhoven Europa League form:
PSV Eindhoven form (all competitions):
Sturm Graz Europa League form:
Sturm Graz form (all competitions):
With a number of players sidelined through injury, Schmidt may opt against making many changes from the team which beat Vitesse at the weekend.
Marco van Ginkel may be restored to the centre of midfield, potentially replacing Erick Gutierrez, while Philipp Max could return at left-back.
Davy Propper will also come under consideration for a spot in the midfield three.
Having switched to a back three for the game against LASK, Schmidt may be prepared to stick with that formation for Thursday’s contest.
While Ivan Ljubic and Jakob Jantscher are both options in midfield and attack respectively, they will likely begin the game among the replacements.
PSV Eindhoven possible starting lineup:
Drommel; Mwene, Ramalho, Boscagli, Max; Sangare, Van Ginkel, Gotze; Doan, Vinicus, Bruma
Sturm Graz possible starting lineup:
Siebenhandl; Affengruber, Wuthrich, Geyrhofer; Gazibegovic, Prass, Stankovic, Dante; Niangbo; Sarkaria, Yeboah
We say: PSV Eindhoven 2-0 Sturm Graz
Having rediscovered some form in recent matches, we feel that this could be a comfortable 90 minutes for PSV. While Graz have the freedom to go all out for victory, an early goal for the home side may derail them in their tracks.
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Source: | This article originally belongs to Sportsmole.co.uk