Football: Dutch coaches under pressure in crucial `Group of Death' meeting

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The Independent Online
The favourites in Group C of the Champions' League, Barcelona and PSV Eindhoven, both lost their first matches. They meet tonight desperate to kick-start their campaign.

Louis van Gaal hopes to prove himself wrong tonight by leading Barcelona to a much-needed Champions' League win over PSV Eindhoven after their 3-2 setback against a Faustino Asprilla inspired Newcastle.

The Barcelona coach, who thinks his Dutch compatriots, PSV, are the best side in Group C, knows both teams need a win to keep alive their hopes of qualifying from the so-called "Group of Death''.

PSV, former European Cup holders like Barcelona, also lost their opening game, slumping to a 3-1 defeat at home to the Ukrainian team, Dynamo Kiev. "PSV are better than Barcelona," Van Gaal said. "They've been playing together for over a year."

Van Gaal thinks his side, who have a 100 per cent record in the Spanish league, have improved since their defeat at Newcastle.

"We've made progress since the first game but concentrating for 90 minutes is very difficult," he said. Van Gaal will have to wait for fitness tests on midfield general Josep Guardiola and the Brazilian striker Sonny Anderson.

One man certain not to play is Bulgarian striker Hristo Stoichkov, who has had disagreements with the coach in recent weeks.

Despite his high opinion of his opponents, Van Gaal is optimistic about Barcelona's chances of victory. "Their form [PSV] isn't the best and because of that they are not favourites," he said.

Van Gaal was clearly not referring to PSV's emphatic 6-0 win at Volendam on Sunday, which included two second-half strikes by Luc Nilis.

But the PSV coach, Dick Advocaat, was guarded about the impact of that result. "It helps morale but the Champions' League is something else," Advocaat said. "Only victory will do against Barcelona. And that's what we've come for."

PSV will be without injured midfielders Marc Degryse and Igor Demo, striker Eidur Gudjohnsen and defender Stan Valckx, who hurt his shoulder a week ago after he fell off his mountain bike.

The last meeting between the two sides gave another Dutchman, Johan Cruyff, his last big win in eight years as Barcelona coach.

In March 1996 the Spaniards were struggling before a superb individual goal by defender Sergi Barjuan earned them a place in the Uefa Cup semi- finals.

"I'd love to be able to do it again but it will be difficult." Sergi said. "A defeat would leave the losing team practically out of it... and would provoke a lot of consequences."

Advocaat and Van Gaal are only too aware of the kind of consequences an early exit from the Champions' League can have on the job of a manager.

BARCELONA (probable): Ruud Hesp, Sergi Barjuan, Michael Reiziger, Miguel Angel Nadal, Albert Celades, Luis Enrique, Ivan de la Pena, Guillermo Amor, Rivaldo, Luis Figo, Juan Pizzi.

PSV: to be announced.

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