After seeing off Sturm Graz in their Champions League qualifier, PSV noted who they would face in the play-off and had one simple message for their upcoming opposition.
“Time for revenge.”
For Rangers, the meeting with the Dutch side isn’t only the gateway to the prestige and riches of the group stage of Europe’s top competition, it’s a rematch after a hard-fought contest 12 months ago.
At the same stage in 2022, Rangers came out on top in a tight encounter, drawing 2-2 at Ibrox before Antonio Colak scored the only goal in Eindhoven to settle the tie and dump PSV into the Europa League.
It’s clear the Eredivisie side haven’t forgotten, and they are confident they pose a tougher test for Rangers this time around.
The Dutch side are under new management this time around. Ruud van Nistelrooy left before the end of last season after his relationship with the players broke down and the team finished second in the league behind Feyenoord.
In stepped Peter Bosz, the former Ajax boss who took the Amsterdam team to the Europa League final, and he will be a familiar face to Rangers fans when he arrives at Ibrox next week. He has fond memories of playing against the Scottish side from previous encounters.
“I’ve beaten Rangers twice with Leverkusen and Lyon so it’s not a case of revenge for me,” he said on Tuesday.
PSV have impressed so far under Bosz. An encouraging pre-season built up to the Dutch Super Cup final, where last season’s champions Feyenoord were beaten 1-0 and Noa Lang’s goal ensured PSV took home the Johann Cruyff Shield.
Sturm Graz arrived in Eindhoven for the first leg of the Champions League third round qualifier and returned home to Austria having been dealt a bruising 4-1 defeat.
A 2-0 victory over Utrecht in the Eredivisie opener continued the strong start before attention turned to the second leg against Sturm Graz, where a 3-1 win away from home saw PSV cruise into the play-offs with a 7-2 aggregate score.
Rangers captain James Tavernier believes the slate is “wiped completely clean” after last year’s tie, with the Ibrox side having undergone a major rebuild over the summer but there’s plenty that’s familiar about the Dutch side.
Seven of the side that started against Sturm Graz on Tuesday played against Rangers last year, with another an unused substitute in both games.
The changes that have been made are significant though. Cody Gakpo was the man Rangers were most wary of a year ago, but the forward is now well settled at Liverpool after his big money move last year. Erick Gutierrez has returned to Mexico and Phillip Max is at Eintracht Frankfurt, while PSG exercised a buy-back clause to take midfielder Xavi Simons back to Paris.
Coming in to strengthen the team are Noa Lang, recruited from Club Brugge for a club record fee, while Ricardo Pepi adds to the striking options after moving from Augsburg, having impressed on loan at Groningen last year.
And in the squad, though not necessarily ready for next week’s tie, is former Rangers favourite Malik Tillman. Bayern Munich cancelled Rangers’ option to buy after the USA international scored 10 goals in 22 games for the Ibrox side last season, and extended his deal. He’s not part of the first team plans yet though, and has been loaned our to PSV for the year.
Rangers can take confidence from the fact that PSV were in good form before the side met last year, and that the squad isn’t necessarily stronger on paper. Michael Beale will have hopes that his new-look side can gel quickly, but encouraged by the fact that four of his new signings bagged their first goal for the club last weekend, and another, Cyriel Dessers, is already off the mark.
Servette ran Rangers close though, and there will be no doubt in the minds of Beale and his players that PSV will represent a step up in difficulty and one against a well-motivated opponent.
Dutch international Joey Veerman was heavily linked with a move to Rangers in the past but he’s eagerly anticipating the trip to Glasgow for another reason. There may be a huge prize on offer for the winners, but PSV also believe they have a score to settle.
“We are out for revenge of course,” Veerman said. “That was a nice atmosphere last year at Ibrox.
“Rangers also play very physical football. We have to be prepared for that, but we are doing really well this season.”