Verbeek did see Ajax demolish Borac in the UEFA Cup on Thursday, but he says that he didn’t really get much out of the experience. ‘I do have some idea of how Ajax want to play from their most recent games, with Sulejmani off the strikers for instance. Ajax have been able to play a number of games in the same formation and in that sense they are more settled than we are.’
It’s not year clear what side Verbeek will start with Sunday. The coach does not know whether Kevin Hofland will be available, for instance. The defender was brought off with an ankle injury on Thursday.
If Hofland does not make it the defensive options would certainly be more limited, but perhaps more importantly Feyenoord would miss his leadership qualities. Verbeek feels that Hofland is one of the few leaders Feyenoord have on the pitch. ‘If he’s not there we lose our composure and our structure,’ said the coach Friday. ‘It’s no coincidence that Kalmar’s goal came when Hofland was off. No one was concentrating at the free kick. Hofland probably would have put them right in that situation.’
Be that as it may, Verbeek feels that the Ajax game is one to look forward to. It’s the first time the coach has experienced the biggest match in Dutch football from the bench. ‘This match is the subject of constant discussion. You see it from the number of supporters too, the game is a complete sellout. The atmosphere at Feyenoord v Ajax is always fantastic. We will do everything we can to make a good game of it.’
Ajax had a less than promising start to the season in Tilburg, when Willem II beat the Amsterdammers 2-1, but won their first match of the season last week, a 1-0 home victory against Roda JC. Despite winning only by the narrowest of margins, in attack Ajax looked a lot stronger than they did a year ago. Last season’s runners-up created a whole string of chances, but the front line lacked that little bit of luck. Ultimately defender Thomas Vermaelen scored the goal that secured Ajax’s first three points of the season.
Marco van Basten asked for some money to be spent by his new club and they responded by splashing the cash to the tune of more than 27 million euros. Dario Cvitanich, Miralem Sulejmani, Ismaïl Aissati and Oleguer Presas were all brought to the Amsterdam Arena, to help Van Basten secure the Ajax’s 30th domestic title. It’s hoped in Amsterdam of course that the light of the new arrivals is not eclipsed by the departure of such decisive players as Jaap Stam, Edgar Davids and John Heitinga.
Van Basten’s team performed well in the midweek UEFA Cup tie at Borac Cacak, winning 4-1 in Belgrade. It sets the Amsterdam outfit up nicely for the trip to De Kuip.
Ajax striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar has got back into the habit of scoring too. After six dry games on the bounce last season’s top scorer in the Eredivisie notched a brace against the Serbians. Huntelaar is probably in his last season at Ajax and he wants to sign off with the league title. Victory at De Kuip would be a major step in the right direction for him and his team-mates.
Feyenoord – Ajax
Sunday 21 September, 12:30 at De Kuip
Feyenoord: Timmer; Lucius, Hofland (Greene), Bahia, De Cler; Wijnaldum, Van Bronckhorst, Bruins, Fer; Makaay and Tomasson.
Ajax: Stekelenburg; Van der Wiel, Oleguer, Vermaelen, Vertongen; Gabri (Sno), Sulejmani, Emanuelson; Suárez, Huntelaar and Sarpong.
11/11/2007 Feyenoord - Ajax 2-2
22/10/2006 Feyenoord - Ajax 0-4
05/02/2006 Feyenoord - Ajax 3-2
17/04/2005 Feyenoord - Ajax 2-3
11/04/2004 Feyenoord - Ajax 1-1
03/02/2008 Ajax - Feyenoord 3-0
04/02/2007 Ajax - Feyenoord 4-1
28/08/2005 Ajax - Feyenoord 1-2
14/11/2004 Ajax - Feyenoord 1-1
30/11/2003 Ajax - Feyenoord 2-0