‘The confidence is back,’ said a satisfied Feyenoord head coach Giovanni van Bronckhorst on Friday afternoon, two days ...
The somewhat gloomy hall in Feyenoord’s hotel in Galicia was a hive of activity Wednesday ahead of a make-or-break Uefa Cup tie for both clubs. Around 35 mainly Spanish journalists arrived to cover the press conference held by Gertjan Verbeek and Roy Makaay. The latter found himself fielding a lot more questions than the former.
It soon became clear that the people of La Coruña have not forgotten Makaay. The striker made it clear at the official press conference that the feeling was mutual. ‘In deference of the people here I won’t celebrate if I score on Thursday.’
Gertjan Verbeek seemed to let all the attention wash over him, getting straight down to business by announcing that Feyenoord had arrived in Spain with 21 players. Three of them would be in the stands for the game, he clarified.
One of them is Jonathan de Guzman. The midfielder joined in full squad training Wednesday evening, but is not fit enough to take part. ‘We’ve made a gesture to him, letting him come with anyway. It’s a pity for him and his brother that neither can play, but Jonathan is working so hard on his rehab that he deserved to come and meet his brother.’ The other two players that are not in the squad heard the news after that same training session.
The remaining eighteen know that they prevail or die at Estadio Riazor. ‘But it won’t be easy to win,’ admitted Verbeek. ‘Deportivo are a team in form and they won convincingly at the weekend. So I’ve prepared my team for a tough match, in which we will have to be alert to our chances.’
Verbeek does not feel that the win or bust scenario obliges Feyenoord to go all out for the three points. He intends to play the same way as the past few games. ‘I’m confident we can play a good game that way and obviously we hope for a good outcome.’
Deportivo La Coruña’s performances have been inconsistent so far this season. The Spaniards have won five and lost four, with three draws, which speaks volumes. Their home form has been better however and Deportivo will be hoping to follow up last Sunday’s win against Athletic de Bilbao in the Primera Division with another home win.
Like Feyenoord, Deportivo need to win the game to stay in the competition. The Galician side were well beaten in Moscow on match-day 1, when CSKA ran out 3-0 winners. The number one aim Thursday will be to wash away the bad taste of that defeat. It will be Deportivo’s first home tie, as they were free on match-day 2.
The Spaniards are already playing catch up on the domestic front too. Eighteen points from twelve games puts them seventh in the league, a full eleven points behind table-toppers Barcelona. Coach Miguel Ángel Lotina’s side seem to be most wanting in attack, with just thirteen league goals to show this season.
Things were a lot different back when Roy Makaay was around. Feyenoord’s current target man was a goal machine in La Coruña between 1999 and 2003. The Dutchman wore the blue and white stripes during the club’s most successful period ever and had a big stake in the Spanish title of 2000, the only one in Deportivo’s history. His other achievements from that time include a Golden Boot.
For Makaay, the trip to La Coruña will be an opportunity to see old friends. For another Feyenoord player the game had the potential to be a family reunion on the pitch. Unfortunately Jonathan is not available for selection and his older brother Julian De Guzman is out with a groin injury. At least both of them will be at the game.
UEFA CUP GROUP STAGE MATCH-DAY 3
Deportivo La Coruña – Feyenoord
Thursday 27 November, 21:00 at Estadio Municipal de Riazor
Referee: Martin Ingvarsson (Sweden)
Deportivo La Coruña: Aranzubia, Manuel Pablo, Adrián López, Zé Castro, Luis Felipe, Lafita, Antonio Tomás, Juan Rodríguez, Verdú, Guardado and Riki.
Feyenoord: Timmer; Tiendalli, Bahia, Hofland, De Cler; Wijnaldum, El Ahmadi, Fer, Van Bronckhorst, Bruins; Makaay.