Leon Vlemmings experienced an Eredivisie baptism of fire as Feyenoord’s caretaker coach at the Abe Lenstra Stadium last Friday. His team have an opportunity to take revenge on Heerenveen immediately though, as they go head to head again in the cup Tuesday. ‘Patience will be very important in this game,’ said Vlemmings the day before the match.
The caretaker coach was talking about those times when his own side are in possession. ‘Heerenveen’s quality lies in getting hold of the ball and breaking fast,’ he explained. ‘We want to build from the back, so we have to be careful. It will be a very interesting battle in terms of tactics.’
Vlemmings will make two changes to the team that tasted defeat in Heerenveen. Georginio Wijnaldum returns to the right wing after recovering from a broken toe. He replaces Andwélé Slory. Luigi Bruins gets the nod as attacking midfielder, ahead of Leroy Fer. ‘Luigi is good at exploiting small spaces between the lines,’ explained Vlemmings. ‘He is a player with potential and we staff are confidence he can play well there.’
Vlemmings is happy to stick with the tactics used under Gertjan Verbeek in recent months. ‘There’s no use suddenly changing everything. The most we’ll do is make some tweaks.’
Vlemmings was in no mood to label the game a must-win. ‘I understand the context,’ admitted the caretaker. ‘In the league we are not in a position to challenge for prizes. In the cup we still a chance of success, so I understand the idea. But I don’t want to boil the whole season down to one game. The team knows that Tuesday’s game is important. We don’t have to stress that any more.’
Despite sc Heerenveen’s victory against Feyenoord last Friday evening in the league, coach Trond Sollied does not think his men are automatic favourites when the sides meet again on Tuesday. After Friday’s game, the Norwegian suggested that the cup-tie was ‘a one-of game in which anything can happen.’
Swedish midfielder Viktor Elm, who made his competitive debut for the Frisians Friday, also expressed his doubts that the result had any bearing on the second meeting between the clubs. ‘I expect Feyenoord to play much more aggressively at home. We have to arm ourselves against that. It’s sure to be a real cup-tie.’
Friday’s three points took Heerevnveen up to fourth in the Eredivisie, a place that matches defender Kristian Bak Nielsen’s ambitions. ‘With Elm and Ingelsten and everyone who’s fit we have a lot of options,’ said the Dane on the club’s website. ‘We will seriously challenge after the winter break.’
Elm and Patrik Ingelsten both joined from newly crowned Swedish champions Kalmar FF during the winter break. They certainly give Sollied more options up front. The first victim of all that luxury was Gerald Sibon, who had to do with a place on the bench Friday.
The experienced striker had to yield to Bonaventure Kalou, who was Heerenveen’s most forward playing attacker against his old club. Kalou didn’t shine, but he did provide the ball from which Danijel Pranjic made it 2-1. Kalou arrives back at De Kuip for the second time this season. The first meeting between the clubs in Rotterdam ended in a draw. There can be no repeat of that Tuesday, as the tie must be decided on the night.
KNVB CUP, ROUND OF THE LAST 16
Feyenoord – sc Heerenveen
Tuesday 20 January, 20:45 at De Kuip
Feyenoord: Timmer; Tiendalli, Lucius, Hofland, Bahia; El Ahmadi, Bruins, Van Bronckhorst; Wijnaldum, Makaay and Biseswar.
sc Heerenveen: Vandenbussche; Breuer, Bak Nielsen, Dingsdag, Popov; Väyrynen, Grindheim, Elm; Beerens, Kalou and Pranjic.