Vlemmings expressed his belief in a happy ending when he first took charge of the first team last winter. ‘I’m someone that always looks forwards,’ he said. ‘I’ve believed we could make up the gap from day one; I’ve never seriously listened to negative scenarios. It’s fruitless, so there’s no use doing it.’
Feyenoord are in a position to secure a spot in the playoffs with a game to spare, an unimaginable luxury back in January when Vlemmings took over from the dismissed Gertjan Verbeek. ‘It’s great we can qualify already,’ said the caretaker coach. ‘That’s one of the reasons we want to win this game at any price and we will not be satisfied with a draw. But we’re not in the playoffs yet. The only think that matters is the game against FC Utrecht.’
The Rotterdammers meet FC Utrecht, a team not quite in freefall, but certainly not at the top of their game. ‘You see that they are on a quest,’ said Vlemmings. ‘They are in a difficult period in which they have lost a lot of points. After least week’s debacle at Vitesse [a 6-1 defeat] they have something to put right. Utrecht have to win to get ahead of us in the table, but we are not really too concerned about the opposition. We just have to do what we do well.’
Feyenoord have been the best performing team in the country together with Ajax and AZ over the past 9 games, which appears to have generated a lot of confidence in the squad. ‘This group of players have enough quality and I feel we are performing to our potential at the moment,’ said Vlemmings. ‘You also see the press writing more positive things about Feyenoord. That’s nice. But it’ll only be really nice if we qualify for the playoffs on Sunday.’
Contrary to Feyenoord, FC Utrecht are on a poor run of form, which has seen them drop plenty of points recently. A decent start left the club in the chasing pack near the top of the league, but coach Ton Du Chatinier’s side have gone off the rails of late and a spot in the playoffs in now in jeopardy.
Most concerning for Du Chatinier is his side’s impotence in front of goal, which saw them go on a run of seven matches without a goal starting with the home fixture against NEC on 22 February. The lack of goals meant the side garnered just two points in that period.
They looked to have turned the corner two weeks ago with a win at home to sc Heerenveen, but last Sunday it all went pear-shaped again in Arnhem. Utrecht did manage to get on the score sheet, but Vitesse rattled in a half-dozen of their own, dispatching their guests back west with their biggest defeat of the season.
It was another low point in a season of low points that has seen the departure of assistant coaches John van Loen and David Nascimento, goalkeeping coach Maarten Arts and fitness trainer Rob Druppers, before head coach Willem van Hanegem followed them out the door himself to be replaced by Du Chatinier.
None of those dismissals have managed to kick-start FC Utrecht’s campaign and the club have slowly but surely started to slide down the table. Last week they were even edged out of eighth place by Feyenoord. With both cup finalists in the top five and guaranteed at least Europa League football next season, ninth will be good enough for a play in the playoffs, but with a tricky final-day fixture at Heracles Almelo to come, FC Utrecht will be looking to give themselves some breathing space with a good result Sunday.
FC Utrecht – Feyenoord
Sunday 3 May 2009, 14:30 at Galgenwaard Stadium
FC Utrecht: De Ruiter; Tim Cornelisse, Dickoh, Keller, Nesu; Maguire, Caluwé, Wormgoor, Somers; Loval and Van der Gun.
Feyenoord: Timmer; Leerdam, Landzaat, Bahia, De Cler; Fer, Tomasson, Van Bronckhorst; Wijnaldum, Makaay and Biseswar.
19/08/2007 FC Utrecht - Feyenoord 0-3
17/12/2006 FC Utrecht - Feyenoord 2-1
02/10/2005 FC Utrecht - Feyenoord 3-1
20/02/2005 FC Utrecht - Feyenoord 0-2
18/04/2004 FC Utrecht - Feyenoord 0-3
09/11/2008 Feyenoord - FC Utrecht 5-2
06/04/2008 Feyenoord - FC Utrecht 3-1
18/02/2007 Feyenoord - FC Utrecht 2-0
05/03/2006 Feyenoord - FC Utrecht 3-0
19/09/2004 Feyenoord - FC Utrecht 0-3
BIG MATCH FACTS
FC Utrecht and Feyenoord have met in Utrecht in the Eredivisie 38 times. The hosts have won 11 of those games, with the visitors triumphing 17 times, while there have been 10 draws.
Feyenoord have given appearances to more teenagers than any other Eredivisie club this term (9). FC Utrecht follow in joint second with 7.
Feyenoord have earned 20 points in the last 9 Eredivisie duels, the best run in the league at the moment alongside Ajax and AZ.