By the time Feyenoord kick off against N.E.C. on Sunday afternoon, all their rivals for the Eredivisie title will have played their 25th game of the 2012/13 Eredivisie season. Ronald Koeman did not want to call that an advantage during the Friday press conference. ‘We have to focus on our own game,’ said the coach. ‘We have to win the game against N.E.C. to stay in the hunt. What other teams do is much less important.’
Koeman feels his team understands how significant the encounter in Nijmegen is, after last week’s win against PSV. ‘We’ve only lost two games against teams that were lower in the table than us at that moment, against Vitesse and PEC Zwolle. The players realise that this type of game is crucial in the race for the top places.’
Koeman took advantage of the weekly press conference to once again point up the progress made by his team this season. ‘Compared with last year a lot of players have come and gone, but the team spirit is a strong and growing factor for us. I see the same thing developing within the squad as last year. There is a lot of personality in the team, as shown again on Sunday against PSV. We had to deal with some knocks, what with Bruno Martins Indi’s injury and going 0-1 down, but we managed to turn the game around to get the win in spite of them.’
Koeman went on to praise the footballing qualities of his team – ‘especially the versatility we show in our attacking play is positive’ – before making it clear that he was fully aware of the strength of Sunday’s opponents N.E.C. ‘They are well organised and able to rise to the occasion against better opposition. They sometimes don’t show up against the lesser teams, but for us they are certainly dangerous opponents.’
With that in mind, Koeman will be pleased that captain Stefan de Vrij has recovered from a minor knock and will be available. The same does not go for Bruno Martins Indi, whose upper leg problem keeps him out of the reckoning.