We’ve made progress these past two months, says Rutten
Feyenoord’s next test comes on Thursday evening when Sevilla FC are the opponents in a crucial Europa League Group G tie. A win could put Feyenoord through to the knockout stages of a European competition for the first time since 2004/2005. The Spanish side are the reigning Europa League cup holders, but confidence is high in Rotterdam ahead of the game. ‘We are playing at home and with our fans behind us we will definitely be going for the win,’ said coach Fred Rutten at the pre-match press conference at De Kuip on Wednesday afternoon.
The away tie two months ago in Seville was a big disappointment for Feyenoord, with the Rotterdammers well beaten in a 2-0 defeat. Rutten feels his side are better equipped to make a game of it this time round. ‘I didn’t feel we were so bad at all in the first half, but we were overrun in the second half. For me it’s only logical that Sevilla were better on that occasion. Actually, we weren’t ready for a big match like that then. But we have progressed a lot as a team compared with two months ago.’
Rutten has seen a positive development in his side in the meantime. Feyenoord have conceded just two goals in the league since that game in Seville and they have kept a clean sheet in the last five competitive matches. ‘We have a lot of routine in the team now, which has led to stability in performances. Among other things, that’s due to training, which for us is mainly oriented to match situations. Defensively, we barely give anything away any more, which also gives us confidence for a big match like tomorrow’s.’
There’s a chance Feyenoord’s defence against Sevilla will differ in one position compared to recent matches. That’s because Rutten thinks Luke Wilkshire will not be able to recover in time from a hamstring injury. The Australian back was replaced by Rick Karsdorp against Vitesse and FC Dordrecht, but the coach is likely to go for Khalid Boulahrouz against the Spaniards. The experienced Boulahrouz was sat alongside his coach at the press conference and he let his feelings be known, with a smile: ‘I obviously hope I’ll be playing. It’s up to my coach. I am preparing as well as possible.’
Boulahrouz, who spent a season at Sevilla back in the day, winning the Spanish Super Cup, has been back training with the squad for a few weeks now after recovering from an injury. He feels it’s only to be expected that he has had to wait for his chance. ‘That’s how things work in football. The team is performing well, so there’s little reason to change. My first few months at Feyenoord did not turn out as I’d liked them to have, but I’m now fit and I do my very best every day in training to get better. If the coach needs me I’m ready.’
One player who is certainly not available for selection on Thursday is Elvis Manu. The striker is ruled out with a groin problem.