That said, he will know as well as anyone that both the previous evening meetings between the clubs at de Kuip have ended in home wins. ‘We have to beat Twente, that much is clear. We are a point behind, with four matches to go. In Utrecht we play a direct opponent, but we cannot afford any slipups.’
Vlemmings has already called FC Twente the most attractive side in the country and he repeated that assertion the day before the match. ‘Their build-up play and their positional sense going forward are very good. Twente are good opponents for us to show how far we have come. After PSV and AZ this game is a great opportunity to measure ourselves against strong opposition.’
When he took over from Gertjan Verbeek in January, Vlemmings started a process in which he distinguished a number of phases. At first, he put his trust in his players and in defensive solidity, which has started paying ever-higher dividends. ‘We are now in the second phase. For the first time we’re interested in what Twente will do against us. We talk about it in the group, which says something about the maturity in there.’
After last week’s performance against Heracles, the caretaker coach will again name Denny Landzaat in central defence in place of Theo Lucius. Georginio Wijnaldum moves back to the right of midfield and Andwélé Slory comes in on the right side of attack. ‘He has done well in training and in reserve games,’ explained Vlemmings. Tim Vincken has also been added to the squad as an out-and-out winger. It would be the youngster’s first game in two years if he comes on.
Saturday’s visit to De Kuip is the first game of a tough run-in for FC Twente. The stakes are high, with second place – and a spot in the Champions League qualifiers – still up for grabs, as well as a place in the cup final. Steve McClaren will have his work cut out in the league. After Feyenoord the Enschede side face matches against their rivals in the top four, sc Heerenveen, AZ and Ajax. As if it had all been worked out in advance, Twente will travel to Amsterdam on the final Sunday. If they arrive at the Arena still a point ahead of their opponents McClaren will surely be very pleased indeed.
While AZ are grinding their way to the title, it’s actually FC Twente that are getting most of the accolades as the best footballing side in the league. McClaren did not tinker too much with the side he was left by Fred Rutten in the summer, opting to play on his squad’s strengths as a passing team that can pin their opponents back.
The Twente frontline certainly has plenty of admirers in the Netherlands and beyond. Marko Arnautovic has been performing to a high standard on the right all season, apparently attracting interest from McClaren's old sparring partner Sam Allardyce at Blackburn, while Eljero Elia on the left may find a really big club coming in for him this summer. Both are fast, technically gifted players that can cause havoc with the ball at their feet.
Most of their crosses are aimed at the head and feet of Blaise N’Kufo, the Swiss forward who first arrived in Enschede six years ago and is now club captain. He needs just one goal to edge out Jan Jeuring as the club’s top scorer down the years.
Feyenoord – FC Twente
Saturday 18 April 2009, 20:45 at De Kuip
Feyenoord: Timmer; Leerdam, Landzaat, Bahia, De Cler; Wijnaldum, Tomasson, Van Bronckhorst; Slory, Makaay and Biseswar.
FC Twente: Boschker; Douglas, Rajkovic, Wisgerhof, Braafheid; Brama, Perez, Janssen; Arnautovic, N’Kufo znd Elia.
24/01/2008 Feyenoord - FC Twente 3-1
26/10/2006 Feyenoord - FC Twente 2-1
02/04/2006 Feyenoord - FC Twente 4-2
12/09/2004 Feyenoord - FC Twente 3-1
01/02/2004 Feyenoord - FC Twente 3-2
16/11/2008 FC Twente - Feyenoord 1-1
27/10/2007 FC Twente - Feyenoord 2-0
11/02/2007 FC Twente - Feyenoord 3-0
25/09/2005 FC Twente - Feyenoord 1-3
29/01/2005 FC Twente - Feyenoord 0-0