‘This success gives us confidence and confirms that we are on the right track,’ continued Verbeek. ‘We are in a process and I see that we are making progress. Winning is good for morale and produces a good atmosphere.’ In Sweden the highlight was not only the team spirit but the good performance. ‘You see that a large number of players are playing together all the time. Often in different positions it’s true, but eight or nine players are established in the first team. This benefits the football.’
Verbeek and his players had little time to celebrate their achievement. NEC arrive at De Kuip three days after Feyenoord’s win in Sweden. Verbeek says it’s now important that his side continue where they left off in Borås. ‘It would be nice to win, because then you hold onto a good feeling.’ The coach feels three of his players in particular deserve it. ‘It would be nice for our internationals Timmer, De Cler and Van Bronckhorst to hook up with the Dutch squad on the back of a win. They are in the spotlight and not in a negative way for once like the loss to Heracles. I hope for the lads that we are able to win all three points Sunday.’
Kevin Hofland’s suspension means Verbeek has to look for a new solution in central defence. ‘I haven’t thought about it to be honest,’ admitted the coach. There is a chance that Karim El Ahmadi will follow up his substitute appearance in Sweden with a start against NEC. It would be his first of the season. ‘El Ahmadi could start, although it does not fit in with his recovery plan after his injury. But if you’re on the bench you have to be able to come on after five minutes, so you can play.’ A decision on Henk Timmer, who is recovering from a groin strain, will be taken on Saturday.
Mario Been returns to the stadium where he learned his trade with a great deal of confidence on Sunday. His Nijmegen side booked a place in the group stages of the Uefa Cup Thursday just as Feyenoord were doing the same. Been feels it will give his players an extra boost in their up-and-coming fixtures, the first of which is at De Kuip.
NEC Nijmegen secured their place in Europe with a superb run in the second half of last season. Been’s side secured no fewer than 36 points after the brief winter break, which got them into the Uefa Cup playoffs. The fine form was kept up in those playoffs, as NEC won every fixture to achieve only their third ever European qualification.
The Nijmegen outfit have started reasonably well this time round too. NEC has five points from four games and occupy 12th place in the league. Dinamo Bucharest were beaten 1-0 on aggregate in the Uefa Cup first round, while Be Quick 1887 were hammered 5-0 in the KNVB Cup.
There were fears around town that NEC would have a tougher season in 2008-09. The departure of important players like Jemaine Lens, Brett Holman and Jonas Olsson left large gaps in the squad. Lasse Schöne, Arek Radomski, Rachid Bouaouzan, Ramon Zomer and Collins John were brought in to help replace them, the last three on loan. Bouaouzan and John have been causing problems already however and the former was told to leave training Tuesday due to a lack of motivation. Both he and John did not make the trip to the Romanian capital this week, due to a lack of fitness.
Tshibamba is certain not going to play Sunday as he’s suspended. The Congolese striker removed his shirt after scoring the equaliser against Heracles in the last game, which earned him a yellow card. Unfortunately for the goal-scorer he already had one, so he had to go. It was made even more painful for NEC given that Rutger Worm had done the exact same thing in the season curtain-raiser against de Graafschap. Worm’s behaviour was discussed at length and everyone agreed that such a thing could never happen again.
Feyenoord – NEC Nijmegen
Sunday 5 October, 14:30 at De Kuip
Feyenoord: Timmer (Van Dijk); Greene, Bahia, Van Bronckhorst, De Cler; Bruins, Wijnaldum, El Ahmadi, Fer, Biseswar; Makaay.
NEC: Babos; Dani Fernándes, Wisgerhof, Zomer, El-Akchaoui,; Sibum, Radomski, Davids, Ntibazonkiza; Schöne and Van Beukering.
02/03/2008 Feyenoord - NEC 1-3
22/04/2007 Feyenoord - NEC 1-1
11/09/2005 Feyenoord - NEC 3-0
05/12/2004 Feyenoord - NEC 2-1
17/08/2003 Feyenoord - NEC 2-1
23/12/2007 NEC - Feyenoord 0-2
26/11/2006 NEC - Feyenoord 4-1
08/02/2006 NEC - Feyenoord 1-2
08/05/2005 NEC - Feyenoord 2-0
28/01/2004 NEC - Feyenoord 1-2