Football: PSV hope to finish Finns

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The Independent Online
PSV EINDHOVEN will be hoping to improve upon their indifferent early season form and give HJK Helsinki a tough debut in their Champions' League Group F opening match tonight.

PSV, now under the care of the former England manager Bobby Robson, lost five of their Dutch internationals during the close season, but are well aware that this season's draw gives them a much greater chance of progress than last. Then, they were pitted against Barcelona, Newcastle and the eventual group winners Dynamo Kiev in the "group of death."

Now they face Kaiserlautern, Benfica and HJK. The Dutch side know they must take maximum points from the Finnish part-timers at home if they are to progress. A draw and a defeat in the first two games of the league season was far from encouraging for PSV, but they have won their last two games.

Their attack will lack the suspended Ruud van Nistelrooy and the Belgian international Luc Nilis, who has only just resumed training after an ankle injury. But his fellow Belgian, Gilles de Bilde, is rediscovering some of hie best form and Arnold Bruggink is a satisfactory replacement.

The Dutch may have problems in defence. The defender Ernest Faber is still out and the veteran centre back Stan Valckx is doubtful after a lengthy lay-off.

HJK, the first Finnish side to appear in the Champions' League, will be without the suspended Aarno Turpeinen, who was sent off against Metz in the preliminary round, as well as Jarkko Wiss, who picked up two yellow cards against the same side.

The Danish side Brondby face a tough baptism in the Champions' League against Bayern Munich. With the midfield general Stefan Effenberg and the veteran libero Lothar Matthaus in superb form, Bayern are in form, having scored eight goals in their last two matches.

The German title favourites extended their lead in the Bundesliga at the weekend with a fourth straight victory of the season, beating promoted Freiburg 2-0. Brondby's head coach, Ebbe Skovdahl, was among the spectators. "It will be incredibly difficult for us." he said.

For Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Manchester United, the three big names in Group D, the prospects of advancing in the tournament hinge on not dropping points against Brondby.

Bayern's coach Ottmar Hitzfeld said his side was experienced enough not to underestimate their opponents. "Brondby are strong, well-organised with good tactics and they can run for 90 minutes." he said. "For us it is a difficult tactical challenge."

Bayern, who have not won the European Cup since the last of their 1974- 76 hat-trick, will be without their injured Ghanaian defender Samuel Kuffour, the German international defender Thomas Linke and midfielder Mehmet Scholl.

Bayern's president Franz Beckenbauer said his side must start the competition with a win. "That will be the key. If we win, we will have no problems to motivate ourselves for the games against Manchester and Barcelona. But Brondby are not an easy task, not for Bayern nor for Barcelona or Manchester." Beckenbauer added that today's Bayern Munich was "the best team we have had for many years".

The eight-time Danish champions have lost four of their last seven matches. They will be hoping their Danish international Ebbe Sand can recover in time to play following a recent minor operation. The veteran goalkeeper Mogens Krogh is back after a hamstring injury.