Feyenoord and Hoang Anh Gia Lai FC have taken the first step towards a talent and coaching development partnership. The two...
Coach Ronald Koeman was not dissatisfied when the draw for the Europa League play-off round paired his side with Sparta Prague. After having had two weeks to gain more insight into the strengths of the Czech club, Koeman is only too aware that the Gambrinus Liga runners-up will be a tough opponent. ‘Sparta Prague has impressed me,’ said the coach during the press conference at De Kuip the day before the game. ‘We might be slight favourites, but we cannot take this game lightly.’
The Feyenoord technical staff have watched Sparta Prague a number of times recently. Koeman saw a youthful side that has the confidence to play offensively and put a lot of pressure on the ball. ‘The question is whether they have the courage to play that way against us, of course, but the fact is that we must not underestimate this opponent, also because we play at home first. It’s very important for us to keep a clean sheet at home and make at least one or two goals. It won’t be easy.’
Koeman feels that Feyenoord can take confidence from earlier European games played this season against Dynamo Kyiv. Feyenoord made a good impression in both legs against the Ukrainians, but failed to take the chances that presented themselves. ‘We are defending well this season and we are well organised, but more is needed than that alone if we want to go further. Our return is not good enough. It’s something we have to improve. I’m sure we won’t continue to miss the big chances we’ve had in recent games.’
The coach is desperate to eliminate Sparta Prague and take Feyenoord into the group stage of the Europa League. He feels it is important for the club on a number of levels. ‘It would be good for Feyenoord financially, but also for the development of the players. In European games you generally meet physically powerful teams that play a different type of game than we are used to in the Netherlands. It’s good for the development of our group. And the squad has been put together with participation in Europe in mind. We all want very much to achieve that.’