Preview: PSV Eindhoven vs. Sturm Graz 

Preview: PSV Eindhoven vs. Sturm Graz 

Fresh from commencing their 2023-24 season with a Dutch Super Cup success, PSV Eindhoven host Austrian giants Sturm Graz in the first leg of their third-round Champions League qualifying tie on Tuesday at the Philips Stadion.

Both teams finished second in their domestic leagues last term, although the visitors’ continental nous pales in comparison to PSV’s prior European experience.

Life under Ruud van Nistelrooy at PSV was ostensibly all well and good for the Eindhoven giants last term, as the former Manchester United striker led the Lightbulbs to a KNVB-Beker and Dutch Super Cup double while also achieving a second-placed Eredivisie finish behind Feyenoord.

However, with just one game remaining in the domestic campaign, Van Nistelrooy surprisingly announced his resignation due to a lack of perceived support from the powers-that-be, citing disagreements over “internal affairs” in the premature divorce.

Now under the wing of Dutchman Peter Bosz – who took Lyon to the 2021-22 Europa League quarter-finals before his inevitable sacking in the early stages of last term – PSV have at least started the post-Van Nistelrooy era in ideal fashion, denying Feyenoord another slice of silverware in the Dutch Super Cup.

A solitary goal from new signing Noa Lang – signed from Club Brugge to replace Paris Saint-Germain returnee Xavi Simons – propelled PSV to Super Cup glory at De Kuip last Friday, and the Lightbulbs now endeavour to end a recent Champions League qualifying curse.

Last reaching the group stage in the 2018-19 campaign, PSV have since failed to make it through the preliminary rounds four times in a row, getting as far as the playoff round in each of the last two seasons before coming up short against Benfica and, most recently, Rangers.

Over in Austria, the Red Bull Salzburg juggernaut often proves too powerful to be stopped, and while Sturm Graz gave it their best shot last time around, Die Schwoazn were forced to accept a runners-up finish to the perennial champions in the 2022-23 season.

Finishing seven points adrift of Salzburg in the Championship round and missing out on the coveted Champions League group-stage spot, Sturm Graz will try their hand in qualifying again, one year on from a 3-1 aggregate loss to Dynamo Kiev at this stage.

Christian Ilzer’s side have already begun their latest quest to dethrone Salzburg at the pinnacle of the Austrian game, and at the time of writing, Die Schwoazn are sitting pretty at the summit of the Bundesliga table thanks to an opening 3-0 win at Austria Vienna and 2-0 success over LASK at the weekend.

Pushing their domestic title charge to one side, Sturm Graz have aspirations of a first Champions League group-stage appearance since the 2000-01 campaign, having also made the proper tournament in the two seasons before that but failing to advance further on each occasion.

PSV and Sturm Graz only locked horns for the first time in the 2021-22 Europa League group stage, but it was a humbling experience for the Austrians, who were thumped 4-1 on their own territory before also falling short in a 2-0 loss at the Philips Stadion.

PSV Eindhoven form (all competitions):

Sturm Graz form (all competitions):

We say: PSV Eindhoven 2-0 Sturm Graz
Even with a noticeably thin squad and a couple of defensive absentees, a PSV side on cloud nine from their Super Cup triumph should still make light work of Sturm Graz on their own turf, as was the case in the Europa League two seasons ago.

It remains to be seen how the Simons-less Lightbulbs will fare under Bosz in the long run, and they will not score for fun on Tuesday, but the visitors’ youthful crop surely lack the necessary continental experience to trouble the hosts’ backline.

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