‘The confidence is back,’ said a satisfied Feyenoord head coach Giovanni van Bronckhorst on Friday afternoon, two days ...
Ronald Koeman is upbeat about Feyenoord's chances in Thursday's Europa League play-off second leg against Sparta Prague in the Czech capital. That optimism is largely based on the way his rejuvenated team has performed so far this season, the coach explained at the Generali Arena on Wednesday in the course of the customary press conference on the eve of the game. 'I'm very satisfied with how things have gone up to now,' said Koeman, in reference to the side's results in recent weeks.
Koeman is also hopeful that his charges have learned lessons from last week's 2-2 draw between the clubs. Feyenoord started to assume control in the second half at De Kuip, ultimately netting the two goals needed to get back on level terms in the tie.
'That game showed we have to play with daring and guts to make things tough for Sparta Prague,' said the former right back. 'Whether we manage to do that will have a very influence on the result tomorrow.'
Koeman was surprised at how easy Sparta Prague found it to put his side under pressure in the first half. 'Even though we know where their strength lies, as I said last week before the game. Tomorrow we have to be better at judging how we can break out when our opponents put us under pressure. You start doing that by developing things from the back correctly.'
The coach feels that Feyenoord showed how to do that well in the away game at Heracles Almelo last Sunday. 'We did everything well then, but last week against Sparta Prague we were far too quick to play the long ball,' continued Komen. 'Sparta Prague won't want to gamble on a goalless draw tomorrow and will try to defend high up the pitch again. We have to be ready for that.'
Koeman is fully aware of how important Thursday's game is for the club. Yes, getting into the group stage of the Europa League would be a sporting achievement, but there is of course also a financial side to qualification. The coach was quick to point out that both sides have everything to win and everything to lose. 'We are obviously under pressure, but that goes for Sparta Prague too. I'm optimistic.'
Probable Feyenoord team: Mulder; Janmaat, Mathijsen, Martins Indi, Nelom; Leerdam, Clasie, Vormer, Immers; Schaken, Cissé.