Rutten: ‘We know where Rijeka’s strength lies’
Croatian outfit HNK Rijeka were an unknown quantity for Feyenoord when the clubs were first drawn together in the Europa League. A few months down the line, though, Feyenoord’s technical staff have a good idea of what Thursday evening’s Group G opponents can do. That was the takeaway message from Fred Rutten’s Wednesday press conference at Kantrida Stadium on the shores of the Adriatic, where the head coach looked ahead to the tie with defender Terence Kongolo. ‘Rijeka are very strong at home in particular.’
‘We’ve been able to make a clear analysis of Rijeka recently,’ said Rutten, who saw the outfit against Sevilla FC and Standard Liege in the Europa League as well as in various Croatian Prva Liga matches. ‘So we’re well aware of their strengths, but like all teams Rijeka also have weaknesses. I’m not going to reveal them here. It’s not my intention to give our opponents a heads-up.’
One thing Rutten and his staff are clear on is that Rijeka are a forec to be reckoned with on home soil. They showed that against Sevilla, who avoided defeat on the Croatian coast with a goal in the dying seconds. ‘Looking at the history, you see that Rijeka are hard to beat at home. But that has to change sometime. We are hoping that’ll be tomorrow,’ said a smiling Rutten.
Rutten told the attending press from Croatia and the Netherlands that there is a big chance that Matthew Steenvoorden will start on Thursday, with Sven van Beek and Joris Mathijsen both unavailable due to injury. It would be the young defender’s European debut, after making his Eredivisie bow against Heracles last Saturday. ‘It’s a great opportunity for Matthew to introduce himself. When we lose, say, a central defender, I pick the next one. I’m not an advocate of reshuffling my whole team.’
In that case Feyenoord’s central defensive duo in Rijeka will consist of Steenvoorden and Terence Kongolo. The latter – just 20 but already a World Cup veteran – explained that he was looking forward to the tie. ‘Simply because playing European matches is a great experience. The difference with games in the Netherlands is that the tiniest mistakes are punished in Europe. That means I have to be very focused and sharp. It can only be good for my development as a footballer.