Rutten ‘confident we will finish the job’
Feyenoord take on Zorya Luhansk on Thursday evening in the second leg of the Europa League play-off. The ultimate prize is a place in the group stage for the first time since 2008, but while there is a clear thirst for a European adventure in and around the club, Fred Rutten does not feel that ramps up the pressure on his team. ‘The normal weight of expectations at a big club like Feyenoord is not greater than usual. I feel we will reach the group stage tomorrow. I’m totally confident we will finish the job,’ said the head coach on Wednesday afternoon at a De Kuip press conference that also featured striker Ruben Schaken.
Rutten explained to the attending journalists why it’s so important that Feyenoord return to the European stage for an extended run after six years. ‘Playing European football is very valuable if only for the club’s standing. It can benefit the personal development of the players a lot too. The cycle of playing on both Thursdays and Sundays is something especially the younger players have to experience. Physically, it’s not such a problem, it’s mainly about how well everyone can deal with it mentally. These lads need to experience for themselves how it is to constantly perform in different competitions.’
Last week Feyenoord showed how not to do it, losing at home to FC Utrecht three days after the draw in Kyiv and giving themselves a good chance of advancing over two legs. Rutten feels his team needs to learn the right lessons from the home loss. ‘One of them is that we have to keep doing our jobs when we start getting tired, as happened last Sunday after an excellent first hour. In that case the trick is to go back to basics and expend less energy.’
In Kyiv Feyenoord faced a team that where happy to sit back and defend, looking for opportunities to counter. Rutten expects Zorya to do the same at De Kuip. ‘We’ve analysed them in detail in both home and away matches. They may make a few minor adjustments here and there, but otherwise I don’t think they will play so differently. Zorya will wait for us to make a mistake and then break fast. We have to be careful of that.’
While everyone at Feyenoord is aware of Zorya’s strengths, Ruben Schaken is convinced that the group stage is within the club’s grasp after various failed attempts in recent years. ‘It would be a huge disappointment if we did not manage it once again, but I’m optimistic,’ said the striker, who has never been past the qualifying rounds despite this being his fifth season at De Kuip. ‘That makes me even more motivated. For me, these opponents are not as strong as Dynamo Kyiv or Sparta Prague, say, who have eliminated us in recent years. And we have the chance to get it done at home.’
Feyenoord will face the Luhansk outfit without Jean-Paul Boёtius and Colin Kazim-Richards, both of whom are suspended. Khalid Boulahrouz and Rodny Lopes Cabral are also out due to knee problems.