‘The confidence is back,’ said a satisfied Feyenoord head coach Giovanni van Bronckhorst on Friday afternoon, two days ...
Gertjan Verbeek looked back at the midweek defeat against Lech Poznan in Friday’s press conference ahead of the weekend trip to PSV. ‘I can imagine Roy Makaay sometimes imagines himself in the A juniors,’ said the coach, who brought three 18-year-olds off the bench in the Uefa Cup tie and had two more in the staring line-up. ‘They are young and promising. I think you also have to look at that when we are judged.’
Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s replacement against the Poles for instance was 19-year-old Kevin Wattamaleo. Happily the skipper should return on Sunday. Verbeek will also have an extra option up front, as Diego Biseswar has recovered from a knee injury.
Verbeek has an eye on the preparation for the second half of the season, when he expects to have a number of injured players back in his squad. Danny Buijs is now fit again, while Michael Mols is making good progress.
Sunday’s hosts are not having a great time of things this season either of course, although Verbeek feels the Eindhoven outfit’s problems are of a different order to his own club’s. The coach made his point by comparing the players on the PSV substitutes bench to his own youthful pick of substitutes.
‘Playing against an impeccable PSV is obviously tougher than playing against this PSV. But they still have a good team, fired up to hold onto or even improve on their place in the table. I don’t think their chance of the title has gone yet.’
With two games to go before the winter break kicks in PSV find themselves knocked out of every competition but the race for the Eredivisie title. But a fifth successive league championship may be a bridge too far for the Eindhoven outfit, as PSV already trail leaders AZ by nine points.
The table toppers also knocked Sunday’s opponents out of the KNVB Cup in mid-November’s last-sixteen tie. In the Champions League Huub Stevens saw his side eliminated in the group stage, although there were extenuating circumstances – PSV were in the same group as Liverpool, Atletico Madrid and Olympique Marseille.
In football doublespeak, PSV can now concentrate on the league. The reigning champions will certainly have to be fully focused if they want to overhaul their Alkmaar-based nemesis.
PSV have reaped the rewards of the last four titles with solid Champions League performances, but each first place also resulted in the departure of the club’s best players. Last summer Jefferson Farfan and Heurelho Gomes both moved from the Philips Stadium. Despite the Brazilian’s shaky start at new club Tottenham, Gomez was a rock in the PSV goal, conceding just 20 goals a season on average in his time in Eindhoven.
That stingy defence was the foundation of PSV’s success, but it has started to creak this season, conceding 17 goals in 15 games. It will be something Stevens in particular is not best pleased with, as shown by the chopping and changing he’s done in the defence.
Only Timmy Simons and Andreas Isaksson have been ever present this term. Ibrahim Afellay’s place is also undisputed, although he has missed some games through injury. He returned in last week’s match against Vitesse and is expected to confirm his vast potential, which make him a good candidate to move to one of the major European leagues at the end of the season.
PSV – Feyenoord
Sunday 21 December 2008, 14:30 at the Philips Stadium
PSV: Isaksson; Culina, Bréchet, Marcellis, Pieters; Méndez, Afellay, Simons, Dzsudzsák; Lazovic and Amrabat.
Feyenoord: Timmer; Tiendalli, Derijck, Bahia, Van Bronckhorst; Wijnaldum, El Ahmadi, Fer, Lucius, Bruins; Makaay.
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17/09/2006 PSV - Feyenoord 2-1
12/04/2006 PSV - Feyenoord 1-1
15/05/2005 PSV - Feyenoord 4-2
14/03/2004 PSV - Feyenoord 0-1
12/01/2008 Feyenoord - PSV 0-1
26/12/2006 Feyenoord - PSV 1-1
11/12/2005 Feyenoord - PSV 1-0
12/12/2004 Feyenoord - PSV 3-3
21/09/2003 Feyenoord - PSV 1-3