VLEMMINGS CONFIDENT THAT ADVANCEMENT IS WELL WITHIN REACH

The squad had just completed the final training session ahead of Thursday’s crunch tie against NAC when Feyenoord announced that discussions with a consortium of businesspeople from the city about potential investments in the club had ended without agreement. ‘Sportspeople have to focus exclusively on their own tasks,’ said Vlemmings when asked what impact the news could have on this side’s preparations for the game. ‘Things from outside only add to the pressure. We have to close ourselves off to them, which doesn’t mean we are not concerned. It’s just that the game against NAC is currently the only thing that matters to us.’

Feyenoord need to beat their opponents to avoid immediate elimination from the playoffs, but Vlemmings does not feel the situation is cause for panic just yet. ‘We worked in a certain way in the weeks leading up to the first game against NAC and it earned us a lot of points,’ said the caretaker coach. ‘It would be strange to stop doing things that way now.’

Vlemmings notes that the defeat in Breda has elicited an emotion response, something he hopes his squad will have managed to get over by the time the sides meet again on Thursday. ‘Of course the defeat was a disappointment,’ said the coach. ‘For me too. But we shouldn’t allow it to distract us. We just have to keep doing what we are good at and not lose our heads. We still have a great chance to get through to the next round.’

To do so the Rotterdammers will have to win the game to set up a third encounter between the clubs at De Kuip on Sunday.

Vlemmings will change his team in at least one position Thursday, with Leroy Fer returning to the starting line-up at the expense of Tim de Cler. Giovanni van Bronckhorst will revert to left back. ‘I’d like to stress that that has nothing to do with Tim’s performance at NAC,’ said the caretaker coach.

Vlemmings said that Fer’s inclusion is a question of balance and how Feyenoord’s four midfielders play with each other. ‘That was decisive,’ he noted. ‘Having more aerial power with Leroy is a plus.’

THE OPPOSITION

NAC Breda have clearly taken heart from Saturday’s win at home to Feyenoord, bearing in mind the post-match reactions. Robert Maaskant’s side got back in the winning mood after a disappointing end to the regular season with a 3-2 victory in the Rat Verlegh Stadium, which leaves NAC needing just a draw in the second leg. ‘This gives us confidence,’ said Anthony Lurling this week in the paper. ‘I doubt they are as sure of themselves at Feyenoord.’

Lurling put in a strong performance against his former club, despite only recently recovering from an injury. The striker played with painkillers in the home leg and will do so again at De Kuip. ‘I’m happy to do that. Especially against Feyenoord.’

While Lurling played a part in his side’s win Saturday night, his coach was not in the mood to pick out individual performances. ‘We played as a team like we used to against Feyenoord,’ said Maaskant after the game. ‘We showed a lot of fight and played well at times. We were justly rewarded for that. Today we gave the fans what they want, that was our aim. We took a step in the right direction.’

NAC have never beaten Feyenoord at De Kuip, but the Breda side know that they don’t even have to break their duck to qualify for the next round. ‘Fortunately, a draw is enough for us,’ noted Maaskant.

For the second leg, NAC will be without Tommie van der Leegte, who was sent off in the first game.


EUROPA LEAGUE PLAYOFFS, SEMI-FINAL, SECOND GAME
Feyenoord – NAC Breda
Thursday 21 May, 14:30 at De Kuip

Referee: Braamhaar

PROBABLE LINE-UPS:
Feyenoord: Timmer; Leerdam, Landzaat, Bahia, Van Bronckhorst; El Ahmadi, Tomasson, Fer; Wijnaldum, Makaay and Biseswar.
NAC Breda: Ten Rouwelaar; Loran, Zwaanswijk, Penders, Mtiliga; Gorter, Gilissen, Kwakman; Kolkka, Amoah and Lurling.

STATISTICS

HOME
26/12/2008 Feyenoord - NAC Breda 3-1
26/08/2007 Feyenoord - NAC Breda 5-0
01/10/2006 Feyenoord - NAC Breda 3-2
14/08/2005 Feyenoord - NAC Breda 2-0
07/11/2004 Feyenoord - NAC Breda 4-0

AWAY
16/05/2009 NAC Breda - Feyenoord 3-2
08/03/2009 NAC Breda - Feyenoord 1-2
30/03/2008 NAC Breda - Feyenoord 3-1
21/01/2007 NAC Breda - Feyenoord 4-1
12/02/2006 NAC Breda - Feyenoord 3-3

BIG GAME FACTS
Roy Makaay has scored 9 goals in Feyenoord’s last 7 games (6 in Eredivisie, 1 the playoffs).

NAC have never won at De Kuip. Feyenoord have won 30 of the previous 42 encounters between the clubs in Rotterdam, while 12 games have ended in a draw. The hosts have scored 111 goals, compared with the visitors’ 30.

Jon Dahl Tomasson has netted 8 times in 12 Eredivisie games against NAC Breda. Only Sparta have been on the receiving end of the Dane’s wrath more time (10) in the Eredivisie.
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