Two years later Verbeek says it’s understandable that Feyenoord are not taking any fans with them this time. ‘But at the same time it’s disappointing. If you see how the supporters have backed us this season, you have to be very proud. It’s a pity we cannot rely on their support on Thursday. But it gives us extra motivation to get through to the next round, so we can offer the supporters a nice trip after the winter break at least.’
Verbeek’s Wednesday press conference was not restricted to the pending match against AS Nancy however. The main topic of conversation was Feyenoord’s poor form. Sunday’s loss to Willem II was the third league defeat on the bounce, which led to a squad discussion on Monday. ‘We have to get through this,’ explained Verbeek.
‘There has to be some sort of natural pecking order. Against Ajax and away at Kalmar we set the standard, but in the first half against Willem II we didn’t measure up. It’s my job as the coach to look for people who measured up, but you need competition for that. Due to the number of injuries, we barely have any.'
Feyenoord travelled to northeast France with a twenty-man squad, but two of them remain very doubtful. Both Jonathan de Guzman and Roy Makaay trained on their own on Wednesday evening and are unlikely to be fit to start.
Just like Feyenoord, AS Nancy has started the new season lethargically. With nine games played the French side are in a disappointing sixteenth place. One win and five draws have left Nancy too close for comfort to the bottom three.
There was more joy for Nancy in the first round of the UEFA Cup than in the league. Nancy skipped past Scottish club Motherwell without conceding a goal. The home tie was won 1-0, then Motherwell were beaten 2-0 on their own patch.
The victory in Scotland ended a long winless streak away from home since 5 October 2007. The French club’s home form has been good however, earning coach Pablo Correa’s side a fourth place finish in last season’s Ligue 1.
Even that was a bit of a disappointment in fact, as the Lorraine-based outfit lost out on third – and a shot at Champions League qualification – on the last day of the campaign. Olympique Marseille claimed that prize instead.
Nancy will be hoping to survive the group stages of the Uefa Cup like they did two years ago, when Ukraine’s Shakhtar Donetsk ultimately proved too strong in round three.
The club’s best-known player is Marc-Antoine Fortuné, at least to Dutch fans. The striker spent three seasons at FC Utrecht, scoring eleven goals in 53 appearances.
UEFA CUP GROUP STAGES, MATCHDAY 1
AS Nancy – Feyenoord
Thursday 23 October 2008, 20:45 at Stade Marcel-Picot
AS Nancy: Bracigliano; Ouaddou, André Luiz, Macaluso; Calvé, Berenguer, Gavanon, N’Guemo, Brison; Fortuné and Hadji.
Feyenoord: Timmer; Greene, Bahia, Hofland, De Cler; Fer, Van Bronckhorst, El Ahmadi, Wijnaldum; Mols and Biseswar.