Vlemmings has bad memories of the playoffs after last season’s fiasco at NAC. Vlemmings was assistant coach at the club, experiencing a disheartening five losses out of six after a tremendous third-place finish in the league. ‘That situation cannot be compared with ours,’ and the caretaker coach. ‘We’ve moved up the table, which is a lot more pleasant.’
While Feyenoord have got stronger as the season has advanced, the same cannot be said for NAC, who just about limped over the finish line in the end. Vlemmings was not in the mood to claim the favourite’s role, mind. ‘In the playoffs, everyone starts with nothing again. We are not going to do our sums and go for a draw, before finishing the job at De Kuip. We want to win at NAC on Saturday.’
The regular season is over, but Vlemmings’s squad has never looked so fit. Jon Dahl Tomasson returns to the first team, while Tim Vincken has also rejoined squad training. ‘I prefer to work with as full a squad as possible,’ said the coach. ‘So it’s bitter to have Kevin Hofland and Dwight Tiendalli suspended. Their presence would have enabled me to make more choices. Some players would have had to sit in the stands and I would have liked to see how they had reacted.’
With Karim El Ahmadi also fit again, Vlemmings was left to decide who would start in midfield in Breda. ‘There’s no debate for me about Jon Dahl,’ admitted Vlemmings, who will start Tomasson behind Roy Makaay in place of Luigi Bruins. Leroy Fer will make way for El Ahmadi, a disappointment Vlemmings feels the youngster has handled with maturity. ‘Leroy has taken it very well and has continued to train well. We explained it to him first and then told Karim he would be playing. It was a choice between two good options.’
NAC Breda go into the playoffs with unhappy memories after falling short at the same stage last season. Under coach Ernie Brandts and his assistant Leon Vlemmings NAC had had a fantastic season, finishing third, but things went pear-shaped in the playoffs.
The Breda side were gunning for a place in the Champions League qualifiers, but five defeats in six games left them empty handed, without any sort of European football to show for their travails.
Brandts left the Rat Verlegh Stadion, leaving a legacy that some felt his successor Robert Maaskant could never live up to. Maaskant proved them wrong, though, with attractive football that earned them enough points to lead the table in the autumn.
His side ran out of steam towards the end, however, losing six out of eight games after suffering a 1-2 home reverse against Feyenoord on 8 March. A place in the playoffs was even under threat on the last day of the season, but Maaskant’s side managed to claim eighth place despite a final day defeat.
Breda minds were more focused on progress in the KNVB Cup towards the end of the season. A sensational win at AZ in the quarters, set them up for a semi-final matchup against FC Twente, but Steve McClaren’s sides were ultimately too strong for Maaskant’s.
EUROPA LEAGUE PLAYOFFS, SEMI-FINAL, FIRST GAME
NAC Breda – Feyenoord
Saturday 16 May, 19:30 at the Rat Verlegh Stadium
NAC Breda: Ten Rouwelaar; Loran, Penders, Zwaanswijk, Mtiliga; Kolkka, Van der Leegte, Kwakman; Reuser, Boukhari and Lurling.
Feyenoord: Timmer; Leerdam, Landzaat, Bahia, De Cler; El Ahmadi, Tomasson, Van Bronckhorst; Wijnaldum, Makaay and Biseswar.
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
10/04/2005 NAC Breda - Feyenoord 0-2
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
BIG GAME FACTS
Roy Makaay scored 8 goals in the last 6 Eredivisie games, which makes him to hottest striker in the league since the start of April.
NAC Breda and Feyenoord have never met in the playoffs until now.
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.