THREE POINTS EXPECTED, CONFIRMS VLEMMINGS

Feyenoord will take the pitch against Sparta Rotterdam in Wednesday’s derby in virtually the same formation as the one named against NEC on Sunday. Only Giovanni van Bronckhorst, who was on the team sheet but had to pull out at the last moment, is still unavailable. His absence opens the door to Lorenzo Pique, who comes into the squad. Pique is a young central defender who until recently was turning out for Feyenoord’s A1 youth team.

The absence of Van Bronckhorst, Tim de Cler, André Bahia and Kevin Wattamaleo means that Kelvin Leerdam will reprise his appearance on the left of defence against Sparta. The youngster played in that position for the first time against NEC and did well. ‘If it works, you don’t need to fix it,’ admitted Vlemmings. ‘Kelvin can read the game and is good at anticipating situations, in defence as well as attack. He senses things well and as a result he never slips up.’

Vlemmings took the decision to hold the training session behind closed doors Tuesday morning. The squad focused on set pieces and the session was recorded so that it could be analysed. ‘For practical reasons we did it in De Kuip,’ said Vlemmings. ‘You get better footage there. We want to be transparent and the principle is that supporters can always attend training sessions. That is the club philosophy. But things can be different once in a while.’

The qualities of Wednesday’s opponents are well known to Feyenoord’s technical staff, but Vlemmings was not in the mood to discuss them at length the day before the game. ‘We are better off investing the valuable time we have in improving ourselves,’ said the coach. ‘We really need that time. But we know what their qualities are and where the opportunities are for us. We are ready.’

Vlemmings was interested to see how his players would cope with injury time defeat to NEC. The coach observed a professional calm among his players, who at the same time are working hard to improve the results. ‘I do not sense any despair at all,’ said the coach. ‘Everyone is coping with the situation in a constructive way. I don’t think we should talk too much now, but just act. Make sure things can be handled in training. Obviously we are expected to win. Everyone is aware of that.’

THE OPPOSITION

A new keeper has been a hot topic in west Rotterdam throughout the transfer window and he finally arrived at the end of last week. For some time, the Belgian Peter Mollez of KV Kortrijk appeared to have the best credentials to challenge Cor Varkevisser for the goalkeeper’s jersey at Sparta, but ultimately PSV’s second keeper Cassio Ramos was brought in. The Brazilian watched his new side go down to league leaders AZ on Sunday from the stands, but he’ll be either on the bench or on the pitch in Wednesday’s Rotterdam derby.

Foeke Booy clearly needed a keeper after experienced first-choice Harald Wapenaar was injured. Former Feyenoord youth goalie Varkevisser was given the job of tending the Sparta goal, but was largely unconvincing. Varkevisser also dropped some howlers that denied his team vital points in the fight to stay in the division.

Sparta have earned a couple of striking wins so far this campaign, but the season is most fittingly summed up by the word ‘inconsistent’. The west Rotterdammers are yet to string two victories together, and indeed more often than not a defeat follows a three-pointer.

Booy’s team includes a lot of youngsters from the club’s own youth development. Kevin Strootman, Erik Falkenburg, Joshua John and Joey Godee have all repaid their coach’s faith with good performances this season.

Rydell Poepon is a little bit older than those four. The striker, who came through the youth set-up at Ajax, spent two seasons at Willem II before moving west. At Sparta he’s a first-team regular and top scorer with eight goals. Two more and Poepon will equal his total for last season in Tilburg.

EREDIVISIE
Feyenoord – Sparta Rotterdam
Wednesday 4 February, 20:00 at De Kuip

Referee: Nijhuis

Probable line-ups
Feyenoord:
Timmer; Tiendalli, Nieveld, Hofland, Leerdam; El Ahmadi, Tomasson, Wijnaldum; Slory, Makaay and Biseswar.
Sparta Rotterdam: Varkevisser; Vermes, Jaggy, Promes, Slijngard; Falkenburg, Slot, Strootman; Poepon, Rose and Godee.

STATISTICS
HOME
26/12/2007 Feyenoord - Sparta Rotterdam 2-0
23/12/2006 Feyenoord - Sparta Rotterdam 3-2
19/02/2006 Feyenoord - Sparta Rotterdam 4-0
19/08/2001 Feyenoord - Sparta Rotterdam 5-0
29/11/2000 Feyenoord - Sparta Rotterdam 2-1

AWAY
29/10/2008 Sparta Rotterdam - Feyenoord 2-1
23/03/2008 Sparta Rotterdam - Feyenoord 3-2
10/09/2006 Sparta Rotterdam - Feyenoord 1-4
21/08/2005 Sparta Rotterdam - Feyenoord 1-3
24/03/2002 Sparta Rotterdam - Feyenoord 0-5

BIG MATCH FACTS
This is the 50th Eredivisie game between Feyenoord and Sparta at De Kuip and the 100th Eredivisie match between the clubs.

Jon Dahl Tomasson has scored 10 goals in 11 matches against Feyenoord’s cross-city rivals, which makes them the Dane’s favourite opponents.

Feyenoord have lost to Sparta at De Kuip just twice since the 1964/65 season.

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