‘WE’LL MAKE IT AS HARD AS WE CAN’

Gertjan Verbeek is forced to make one change to his starting line-up for the visit of Lech Poznan Wednesday evening. Giovanni van Bronckhorst was stretchered off in the weekend defeat to AZ and he has failed to recover in time to meet the Poles. His place at left back therefore goes to Kevin Wattamaleo. He makes his European debut in a game in which Feyenoord have nothing to play for but their self-esteem.

Wattamaleo for Van Bronckhorst is the only change to the Feyenoord team that lost to AZ last Saturday. Verbeek has opted to field his strongest possible eleven against the Poles. ‘We are looking at the process we are in,’ said Verbeek Wednesday. ‘These past few weeks we have not played as well as the preceding period and we want to turn that around.’

More than anything, Feyenoord need stability right now and that has been difficult due to the number of injuries in the squad. Above and beyond the four backfield players that will start Wednesday’s match, Verbeek’s only other defender is Norichio Nieveld. ‘The consequence is that it’s sometimes been difficult to find routine and to communicate,’ admitted Verbeek.

A good result against Lech Poznan would help and may also accelerate the process. Despite home advantage, though, Verbeek does not expect anything but a tough ride. ‘Poznan have to win, but I don’t think they’ll go all out in attack from the first minute. They know that 0-1 could be enough. But we’ll make it as hard as we can for them.’

Verbeek is looking forward to the match-up, even if it is a dead rubber for the Rotterdammers. ‘Fact is, we were happy when we qualified for this group. You know that this game has been scheduled. When you look at the defence we have, I could never have imagined it ahead of the season. But I am fully confident we can make things as difficult as possible for Poznan.’

THE OPPOSITION

Things are going well for Lech Poznan. Chairman Andrzej Kadziñski’s club lead the Polish Ekstraklasa and have a great chance of getting through to the knockout stages of the Uefa Cup if they can win at De Kuip. Victory against Feyenoord would wrap up a great year ahead of the winter break and would mean that Poznan’s next game is another Uefa Cup match, as the Ekstraklasa does not resume until late February.

Lech’s fans were probably not expecting to be in such a position when the club were relegated in 2000. The following season saw the Kolejorz (Railwaymen) escape a second succession demotion by the skin of their teeth. And as so often happens, the club drew renewed strength from looking straight into the abyss, returning to the top flight precisely one year later.

An even bigger watershed came in 2006, when the club merged with neighbouring Amica Wronki. The new club has finished sixth and fourth in the highest division of Polish football over the past two years.

The club’s Stadion Miejski in Poznan is also being rebuilt. Currently able to hold just under 25,000 fans, the municipal stadium is undergoing a facelift ahead of the 2012 European Championship and will ultimately be able to accommodate 46,000 seated supporters.

The league-leader’s biggest draw will have probably moved on to bigger and better things by the time the stadium is complete. Semir Stilic only arrived in Poland’s fifth-largest city in the summer from Zeljeznicar Sarajevo, but he has already become the main attraction in Franciszek Smuda’s team. The 21-year-old midfielder’s performances and goal-scoring abilities have caught the eye of various clubs across the continent. Celtic have shown the most interest up to now.

UEFA CUP GROUP STAGE, MATCHDAY 5
Feyenoord – Lech Poznan

Wednesday 17 December, 20:45 at De Kuip
Referee: Dondarini (Ita)

PROBABLE LINE-UPS
Feyenoord: Timmer; Tiendalli, Derijck, Bahia, Wattamaleo; Wijnaldum, El Ahmadi, Fer, Lucius, Bruins; Makaay.
Lech Poznan: Turina, Wojtkowiak, Arboleda, Tanevski, Djurdjevic, Bandrowski, Murawski, Wilk, Peszko, Stilic and Rengifo.

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