Mario Götze has passed his first official PSV test. He scored the opening goal against PEC Zwolle. PSV are now preparing for the first Europa League group match against Granada, the current number 6 of the Spanish Liga.
Götze’s first success with PSV
It took Mario Götze no more than nine minutes to score his first goal for PSV. His debut in PSV’s starting 11 came sooner than most people expected. Due to a positive coronavirus test for Israeli striker Eran Zahavi, and the good shape Götze kept himself in during the last months, Roger Schmidt chose to let Mauro Júnior start as a striker.
Schmidt placed ‘super Mario’ on the right-wing and midfield. Clint Leemans, a product of the PSV Youth Academy and current PEC Zwolle winger, passed a ball back to his own goalkeeper. But he didn’t see the razor-sharp German at the edge of the 16m box. Götze intercepted the ball, moved past fellow countryman and PEC goalkeeper, Michael Zettererer, and hit home with great ease.
The very much in shape Cody Gakpo took care of the 0-2, after a nice attack and very precise assist from Philipp Max. The German winger once again showed why he is worth the transfer money. He also brought Timo Baumgartl – who looked very insecure throughout most of the game – in a dangerous position, after losing the ball on his own half.
The blonde central defender then made a foul and helped PEC Zwolle back into the game with a penalty. However, Yvon Mvogo made sure to use his feet what PSV rented him for, and stopped it. It was the second chance for the hosts to get back into the game, and everyone knows what happens then.
Nine minutes later, Donyell Malen put the 0-3 on the scoreboard, also marking the end of the best of this match. No-one scored any goals during the remainder of the game. Adrian Fein came on the pitch for Ibrahim Sangaré, who got a yellow card the minute before that.
Together with Götze, they brought the total of new signings’ debuts to three. That’s a good thing to have behind you when working towards the first group match of the Europa League. This takes place on Thursday at the Philips Stadium, with the kick-off at 18:55 (6:55 PM) Dutch time. Watch the highlights of the PEC Zwolle – PSV game right here.
Who are Granada CF?
Most football fans know a handful of teams from La Liga, and fanatics maybe know another handful, but Granada CF isn’t usually among them. And it’s no wonder: this season is only their 14th on the highest Spanish level, and the second since their promotion from the Secunda Division in 2019.
Between their relegation in 1976 and the promotion in 2011, they even played in the Fourth (!) Division. Last year’s seventh position was only their fourth top 10 ranking in history and their best since 1974. So then how did they come back to where they are now and what else can we say about them?
The football club is from the city of the same name: Granada, a city of around 235,000 inhabitants in the south-east of Andalusia. Granada Club de Fútbol play their home matches at the Estadio Nuevo Los Cármenes, with a capacity of 19,336 visitors. Their success story began in 2016 when Chinese investor Jiang Lizhang – also the owner of Parma Calcio 1913, Chongqing Dangdai Lifan and CD Tondela – bought the Share Package from the Italian Pozzo family.
They own Udinese Calcio and Watford F.C. too. After the team relegated after his first season, he brought in Antonio Cordón as manager. Cordón had been very successful at Villareal and just left AS Monaco. Cordón attracted Fran Sánchez as technical manager, and together they focused on signing the best and financially feasible players from the region and bring the Youth Academy to a higher level.
The next step was to bring in the then 37-year-old Diego Martínez as head coach. Young in age, but with 20 years of experience that year, it took him only one season to get the club back to La Liga. He managed to finish as number 7 the year after. Martínez worked his way up as youth coach from the regionals of CD Imperio Albalote.
He was assistant and head coach at Arenas CD Armilla. It was then known as Motril CF, the C and B teams of Sevilla FC and Osasuna. There, he failed to qualify for the play-offs. He appears to be a real winner though, managing to let a relatively cheap group of footballers play as a team, and qualifying for the Europa League for the first time in history; not bad with a budget of only €37 million.
Granada CF in 2020
This La Liga season so far, Granada beat Athletic de Bilbao (2-0), Alavés (2-1) and Sevilla (1-0) at home, drew against Cádiz (1-1) away, but got crushed in Madrid by Atlético (6-1). Still, after five playing rounds, the Andalusians have the same amount of points as Real Madrid, the current number 3. They also managed to keep Atlético, Barcelona and Sevilla – who all played one match less – under them.
Defender Sánchez, midfielders Herrera and Milla and strikers Machis, Molina and Soldado scored the goals. The latter 35-year-old tested positive for COVID-19 last Monday. He will, therefore, not be part of the selection that flies to Eindhoven. It’s clear that the team from a club this size will miss the former Real Madrid, Valencia, and Tottenham Hotspur striker’s class and experience.
Granada qualified for the Europe League group phase after beating KS Teuta Durrës (0-4, away), Lokomotivi Tbilisi (2-0, home), and Malmö FF (1-3, away). Looking at the strength of the opponents, they are comparable to the ones PSV defeated in their qualifying rounds.
For both squads, it counts that the real work is only beginning now. I would say the Spaniards are a step ahead when it comes to being a smooth-running team. Plus they’re used to play against strong opponents in La Liga.
PSV have the advantages of being used to play European tournaments as a club; the selection is big and strong and has a lot of potential on both short and long term. Looking at the experienced technical staff, it’s logical to state chances that the 3 points stay in Eindhoven are biggest.
Why isn’t PSV competing against bigger teams?
PSV play in the Europa League this season, in a poule with Granada CF from Spain, PAOK Saloniki from Greece and Omonia Nicosia from Cyprus. Why isn’t PSV competing with bigger teams? And why aren’t they in the Champions League, like they used to be? A bit of explanation could help some of us who aren’t too familiar with the European set of rules and current state (read: money) of football in general.
One of the main reasons a top team from the Dutch Eredivisie has to compete with a smaller team from the Spanish La Liga is the UEFA set of rules for countries. Simply put, they give the most direct tickets for European football by the countries who perform best. Spain has teams like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla, have a lot more money and some of the best players and selections in the world.
They thus win a lot more matches and titles. All the matches and prizes they win, result in a lot of points. That, in turn, results in a high position on the UEFA coefficiency rankings. And if you win, you get more money, so you get how hard it is to compete with the European top these days.
The highest-ranked countries get the most direct tickets for European tournaments, and the lower-ranked countries have to play qualification matches to get in. Lower-ranked clubs of high-ranked countries, such as Granada FC, have to follow the same path as higher-ranked clubs of lower-ranked countries.
It, therefore, often happens that the final match of the Europa League tournament has the affiche of a Champions League group match, such as Sevilla – Internazionale of last season. For now, that is the platform for which PSV can aim.
You can follow the pre-match press conference on Thursday, 21 October online at 13:00 (1 PM) through PSV’s YouTube channel.
Join the online conversation about PSV right here.
By Joey van der Hart for Eindhoven News