Feyenoord eased clear of the bottom regions of the Eredivisie for the time being with the win at De Graafschap. ‘We have been taking every game as it comes for a while now,’ admitted Vlemmings. ‘Of course it’s essential we win them. We managed that in Doetinchem and we’ll have to do so against Vitesse on Sunday as well.’
‘We are never that concerned about the opposition,’ said Vlemmings speaking of how the technical staff were approaching the game. ‘It’s important we know how they play, so we know how we can put them under pressure and what we have to be wary of. We know about all that. But basically I don’t really care who’s visiting De Kuip.’
Strikingly, the Rotterdammers have kept three clean sheets in the last four games despite having to make abundant personnel changes in that time. There’ll be changes Sunday too. Theo Lucius came out of the De Graafschap game with a sore hamstring and will be replaced on the right of defence by Kelvin Leerdam or Dwight Tiendalli.
Studies show that, on balance, sacking your coach is not the best way to kick-start your season. Vitesse have proved that rule this season, mind. The outcome looked bleak in Arnhem during the reign of Hans Westerhof, but since his exit successor Theo Bos has brought a little bit of sunshine back to the Gelredome.
Vitesse seemed to go from bad to worse in the first half of the season. Amateur team FC Lienden were too strong in the cup and Westerhof’s private remarks to a fellow coach about his central defenders Civard Sprockel and Sébastien Sansoni being well below Eredivisie standard created an almost unworkable situation at the club.
The club management showed Westerhof the door in the week after Christmas. Bos came in as his replacement and the new man has seen his side lose only once in the meantime. FC Twente were too strong in the first game after the winter break. Since then, Vitesse have gone six games unbeaten, picking up 14 points from a possible 18. That rich vein of form has catapulted the Arnhem outfit out of the bottom three and up to tenth in the table.
Under Bos the much-maligned Sprockel has shown he is certainly good enough for this level, while midfielder Sansoni has earned himself a new contract with some fine displays. Elsewhere, new arrival Lasse Nilsson has put in the sort of performances up front that had clubs lining up to sign him a few years ago. The biggest surprise though is Dalibor Stevanovic. The Slovene who came from Israeli side Maccabi Petah Tikva in January might not be at Vitesse for long if he continues to play so well.
The midfielder is a nailed on cert to start at De Kuip Sunday as Feyenoord and Vitesse battle for the tenth place in the league. The winner will likely harbour dreams of advancing even further up the table as the season unwinds and perhaps even securing a place in the Europa League playoffs.
Feyenoord – Vitesse
Sunday 1 March, 14:30 at De Kuip
Feyenoord: Timmer; Leerdam (Tiendalli), Bahia, Hofland, Van Bronckhorst; El Ahmadi, Tomasson, Fer; Wijnaldum, Makaay and Biseswar.
Vitesse: Velthuizen; Verhaegh, J. Drost, Sprockel, Kuiper; Claudemir, Hofs, Sansoni, Stevanovic; Nilsson and Van Wolfswinkel.
17/02/2008 Feyenoord - Vitesse 1-0
05/11/2006 Feyenoord - Vitesse 2-1
06/11/2005 Feyenoord - Vitesse 0-0
23/01/2005 Feyenoord - Vitesse 1-2
22/11/2003 Feyenoord - Vitesse 3-0
30/11/2008 Vitesse - Feyenoord 1-1
07/10/2007 Vitesse - Feyenoord 0-1
01/04/2007 Vitesse - Feyenoord 0-1
15/01/2006 Vitesse - Feyenoord 0-1
29/08/2004 Vitesse - Feyenoord 1-1
BIG MATCH FACTS
Feyenoord have lost just two of the previous 23 Eredivisie games between the clubs at De Kuip. Vitesse won the fixtures on 4 December 1994 (0-3) and 23 January 2005 (1-2).
If selected, Roy Makaay will make his 50th Eredivisie game for Feyenoord. He scored on his debut for the Rotterdammers in a 3-0 away win at FC Utrecht on 19 August 2007.
Jon Dahl Tomasson is the most efficient Feyenoorder in front of goal this season, with a goal from every three efforts.