Rutten senses Feyenoord confidence ahead of Ajax
One thing that struck Fred Rutten this week was how his team prepared for Sunday’s head-to-head at Ajax like every other game. ‘One of the reasons for that is that this team is bursting with confidence,’ said the Feyenoord coach at the pre-match press conference on Friday. ‘That confidence has increased enormously since mid-October and it’s never ebbed away.’
Rutten is personally also confident Feyenoord can get a good result on Sunday against a team that stands second in the Eredivisie. ‘If I didn’t feel we had a chance I wouldn’t even let the coach leave on Sunday. This team knows when you have to fight in a game, but we can also play very good football. Our team has got the knack of both of those facets.’
And Feyenoord are still improving on both fronts, Rutten adds. ‘We continue to make progress, although we perhaps displayed that to a lesser degree against Twente. That was the first game after a break, so winning was the main thing. As the game wore on we also played better, improved our positional play and regained our rhythm.’
Feyenoord will have to ensure they play to their strengths in Amsterdam, too. ‘There are always subtle differences depending on your opponents, of course,’ added Rutten. ‘I am counting on Ajax playing as they always do, although they might be a little more cautious bearing in mind the last game against us at De Kuip.’
The statistics are not in Feyenoord’s favour, as the Rotterdammers have not won in Amsterdam since 2005-2006. ‘But the past doesn’t count for me, because this is my first Ajax v Feyenoord,’ Rutten continued. ‘Plus we have a group of players that have already experienced a lot.’
The coach will be unable to call upon Elvis Manu in the capital. The striker is still recovering from a groin injury. Rutten does expect to have Khalid Boulahrouz available. The defender has been fighting flue symptoms this week, but was able to complete a full training session with the rest of the squad on Friday.