Rutten’s message is clear: ‘We need to fight’
Feyenoord travel east on Saturday to take on Heracles Almelo, less than a week before Fred Rutten’s men head off to Italy for the big Europa League tie against AS Roma. The coach is well aware that his side need to man up against a side that is fighting for their lives at the wrong end of the Eredivisie table. ‘The danger in this game is the situation Heracles find themselves in,’ said Rutten on Friday afternoon. ‘They have to survive, they are fighting to stay in the league. We have to man up and take up arms.’
The game against Heracles kicks off a big fortnight for Feyenoord, which includes a home Eredivisie match against Excelsior sandwiched between the two-legged encounter with AS Roma. With that in mind, there’s every chance Rutten will shuffle his pack over the next few weeks more than he usually does.
The coach made special mention of Tonny Vilhena, who made a great impression in last Monday’s Feyenoord/Excelsior development squad by netting three times. ‘He played very well in the second half, although the performance of the whole team was very disappointing in the first half. But if anyone is in line for more playing time it’s Tonny.’
As an example, Rutten referred to Feyenoord’s recent game against Cambuur, when Jean-Paul Boëtius made way for Anass Achahbar at half time. ‘If you do it on the training pitch every day as Anass does, I will not hesitate to give someone else a chance too. Jean-Paul has been with us for a while and he knows how football works, so you know that sort of thing can happen. But Jean-Paul will play tomorrow.’
It’s uncertain whether Luke Wilkshire will return on Saturday after a period on the sidelines with a hamstring injury. The defender was back on the training pitch on Friday, but Saturday remains touch and go. ‘We don’t want to run the risk of him getting injured again,’ said Rutten. ‘It’s at least looking good for Luke for coming Thursday (when Feyenoord take on AS Roma, ed.).’
Khalid Boulahrouz, who had replaced Wilkshire at right back in recent matches, missed Friday training due to illness. He too is a doubtful against Heracles. If both Wilkshire and Boulahrouz are unavailable on Saturday, Rick Karsdorp will assume right-back duties.