Roger Schmidt spoke to the press on Friday afternoon, ahead of Sunday’s Eredivisie encounter with Sparta Rotterdam. PSV’s head coach first of all commented on the UEFA Conference League round of 16 draw. PSV have been paired with FC Copenhagen and Schmidt thought that booking a place in the quarter finals may be a realistic target. “But we will have to play at top level in both ties”, he said but was quick to add that the first game is always the most important one. “We must focus on our trip to Sparta Rotterdam.”
Schmidt did not have to dig deep in his memory to remember encounters with FC Copenhagen. “First of all I vividly remember my spell at Red Bull Salzburg when we met F C Copenhagen. We also played FC Mydtjylland and I liked the result against them a lot better! So we will head for familiar territory once again. We can come a long way in this tournament but, of course, we must beat our opponents in these knockout stages."
Schmidt admitted he had changed his opinion on the Conference League completely during the course of the current season. “Prior to the season, I doubted whether it would be interesting to compete in the Conference League. Actually I thought an extra tournament in Europe would be superfluous. But I was pleasantly surprised when I saw some matches. Many strong teams have booked a spot in the last 16 and we ourselves can look back at two entertaining ties.”
Schmidt still has selection problems ahead of Sunday’s game at Sparta Rotterdam. “Phillipp Mwene is not fully fit and I doubt whether he is available on Sunday. He joined the squad for training ahead of the return leg in Tel-Aviv but I’m afraid he deals with a recurrent problem. And we will also have to do without Cody Gakpo, Armando Obispo, Maxime Delanghe, Marco van Ginkel and Maxi Romero, André Ramalho and Ryan Thomas, who face a lengthy spell on the sidelines.”
“Sparta provided tough opposition in this season’s reverse encounter in the Philips Stadion”, continued Schmidt. “They have a compact, well-organised defence and a good goalkeeper. The match will be played on an artificial turf which we are not used to and we face three difficult away games in the space of six days. Yet I feel confident the team will perform well.”