It’s official – another 90 minutes, another boring game but Liverpool fans won’t mind, their side are through to the Champions League semifinals for the second time in three years.
Can they go to Athens?
If they do, they’ll either meet Manchester United or Milan – teams with which Liverpool has a lot of history.
Benitez vs Mourinho part two will be very interesting – I have the odd feeling that we might see tensions boil over considering what happened the last time these two teams met in the Champions League.
Chelsea will still go into the match as favourites regardless of what happened two years ago, just as Milan are favourites in the other semi despite United’s 7-1 drubbing of Roma.
It’s turning out to be a cracking Champions League finish, and the league finish is no less. I’ll have the semi final previews up on Monday, hopefully.
Liverpool came to Eindhoven and after 20 minutes of passing the ball amongst themselves, realised that PSV had nothing to offer in terms of attack and duly went forward for their first goal.
In the second, they decided to wrap up the tie with two more goals and by the 63rd minute Liverpool were 3-0 up and could sit back, relax and dream about Athens.
First Leg Goals
Liverpool win 3-0 thanks to a Gerrard header, the customary Riise scorcher and a Crouch header.
Liverpool are 1-0 up at the Philips Stadion thanks to a perfectly headed goal by Gerrard from a Steve Finnan cross.
The rest of the game has been quiet, Liverpool prefering to sit back and attack cautiously while PSV look a bit lost.
Hopefully the second half will be better. The other game – Bayern vs Milan – is playing out to be a lot better right now.
PSV Eindhoven: Gomes, Kromkamp, Da Costa, Simons, Salcido, Mendez, Vayrynen, Cocu, Culina, Farfan, Tardelli
Subs: Moens, Kluivert, Addo, Feher, Sun, Marcellis.
Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Agger, Riise, Gerrard, Mascherano, Alonso, Aurelio, Crouch, Kuyt
Subs: Dudek, Arbeloa, Hyypia, Gonzalez, Pennant, Bellamy, Zenden
You can’t fault Liverpool for dreaming about playing in Athens. They are up against a weakened PSV side, they have almost a full squad to choose from (Bellamy will undergo a last-minute fitness test) and they have a 4-1 win against Arsenal to boost their spirits.
The fact that PSV barely managed to beat Arsenal in the last round AND the fact that the player that beat Arsenal, Alex, is injured, means that Liverpool have every reason to be confident.
This is the easiest of the four quarter-final ties, and I fully expect Liverpool to make it to the semi finals. To not do so will require a major screw up, which in real terms translates into a 3-0 defeat at Philips Stadion and then a draw at Anfield.
Bottom line – if PSV can prevent Liverpool from scoring tonight, they have some chance of progressing.
But Liverpool in the final? It’s a tough ask, and Chelsea and Valencia are the toughest semi final opponents that Liverpool could face. It IS possible though, but Liverpool need to win today’s game first.
Liverpool will do a late fitness check on Bellamy. Gerrard, Finnan and Hyppia return to the squad, while Sissoko is suspended for the first leg.
PSV will be without injured defender Alex and striker Kone (knee).
PSV Eindhoven’s Salcido Flores and Liverpool’s Kuyt and Pennant are on yellow cards and will miss the next game if they are booked.
PSV Eindhoven Background
Despite their minnows status PSV Eindhoven have a rich heritage of grooming quality players (The current generation in Europe include Nistelrooy, Kezman, Stam, Robben, van Bommel, Ronaldo and Romario, to name a few).
They have also shown a propensity to mix it up with the ‘big boys’ of Europe, using excellent tactics, discipline and team coordination as a foundation for tight wins. They’re not afraid of draws or penalties, and in Hiddink and Koeman they have inherited managers who have further honed tactical discipline and physical conditioning as an integral part of the team.
PSV Eindhoven (Wikipedia)
Without Crouch, Liverpool’s strike force is finally settled as Bellamy and Kuyt are expected to start for Liverpool up front. Liverpool have no chance of second place, and are in a fight for the third place. Despite promising a lot in recent years under Benitez, Liverpool have failed to break into the top two.
Rafa’s Liverpool are defensive, cautious in attack and closing ranks whenever the opposition has the ball. Their game is built on possession but unlike Arsenal, this possession often translates into sideways plodding and ineffective offense.
Still, Liverpool have enough quality and firepower to win the tie in Eindhoven, and Rafa will know that’s the minimum required of him and Liverpool.
PSV Eindhoven vs Liverpool – Predictions
Can PSV beat Liverpool?
In Rafa Benitez, Ronald Koeman might have met his defensive match. PSV will ideally try to keep a clean sheet at home and try to win the tie at Anfield on away goals. Benitez will have the same strategy, hoping to win the tie at the Philips Stadion.
Liverpool to win by the odd goal at Philips Stadion, and they’ll come back home and make a meal out of finishing the tie.
Liverpool vs Chelsea? Another semi-final? Sounds like a brawl to me.