Marking their first trip to the Round of 16 in nine years, PSV Eindhoven received a boost from the returns of midfielder Andres Guardado and forward Maxime Lestienne when they stare down last year’s quarterfinalist and top defensive club Atletico Madrid in Wednesday’s first leg at Philips Stadion in Eindhoven.
A hamstring injury suffered on Jan. 30 was at first expected to sideline Guardado for the first leg, but PSV manager Phillip Cocu said he expects the Mexico international to play.
"He is working hard to get back onto the field and is focused on Wednesday's UEFA Champions League game against Atletico Madrid,” Cocu told reporters Saturday. "Andres knows his body and I suppose he will be back in action on Wednesday, but if he is not match fit yet, I am confident we have the right players who can deputise in his position."
The 29-year-old Guardado has scored only one goal this term, but his club-best eight assists has been a boon for PSV’s attack and the squad will need his playmaking skills against an Atletico side that tallied 11 goals in the group stages and allowed just three.
Lestienne, 23, last appeared as a substitute in Dec. 19’s 3-2 Dutch league victory over PEC Zwolle, recording his fifth assist of the year.
PSV looked quite sharp in their latest domestic outing, notching a third straight clean sheet Sunday in a 2-0 win over Heracles. Forward Gaston Pereiro and midfielder Davy Propper each found the back of the net while keeper Jeroen Zoet notched three saves to keep PSV one point ahead of Ajax in the Eredivisie chase.
However, Propper, Pereiro, and leading-scorer Luuk de Jong, who’s netted 17 goals this term, may find it difficult to break past an Atletico defense that’s proved to be the best in the world this term.
Led by center back Diego Godin and left back Filipe Luis, Atletico has only allowed one goal in their past three games. In Champions League group play, Diego Simeone's squad allowed just three total goals in six games, conceding all three to Benfica.
Unfortunately, Simeone’s attack hasn’t kept up with the backline. Rojiblancos have scored a mere 35 La Liga goals and were blanked by Villarreal in a scoreless result Sunday that put them eight points back of leaders Barcelona in La Liga.
Atletico will turn to leading scorer Antoine Griezmann, who has netted 20 goals and four assists across 33 starts this term. However, the French forward is on a scoring drought that dates back to Jan. 27’s 3-2 loss to Celta Vigo in Copa del Rey play.
Kickoff: 2:45 p.m. ET
TV Channel: Fox Sports 2
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