There’s no doubt that Feyenoord have a lot of work to do. The Rotterdammers have lost two in a row and now find themselves out of the top five on goal difference with three matches remaining. It means that points are at a premium in the 270 minutes of Eredivisie football that remain of the 2007-08 season to ensure that Feyenoord are one of the four teams that place for the Champions League playoffs. A win at home to FC Utrecht Sunday will be the first step.
The media went searching for explanations after last weekend’s painful loss to NAC. One of the hypotheses was based on a generational gap in the squad. Van Marwijk was having none of it Friday however. ‘It’s totally wrong. The only thing that’s happened this week is that the players have talked among themselves about what went wrong. I can only be happy that they are working things out like that.’
One of the problems Van Marwijk did raise Friday – not for the first time – was that his players are often too nice to each other. ‘They could be a little harder on themselves and on each other. That will make them more resistant and more combative.’
The coach feels that the little things have conspired to cause his side to lose the last two games. ‘Players are not concentrating or are lacking sharpness at times. But you cannot say they are not doing their best. It’s just a matter of learning to recognise crucial situations.’
On the personnel front, Feyenoord may have to take on Utrecht Sunday without Kevin Hofland. The defender took a hard ball against his head in Thursday training and spent Friday indoors for safety’s sake. The defender’s readiness will be assessed at the weekend.
Willem van Hanegem may have expected to make a bigger impact on his return to Dutch football. Many experts tipped FC Utrecht to be the season’s surprise package in the Eredivisie. It hasn’t quite panned out that way however, save the odd unanticipated result, like the 3-1 win against PSV in early March.
Van Hanegem has his own explanation for his side’s hit-and-miss season, one he regularly expounds on TV. As banal as it seems, the referees have it in for his team. He has even put together a DVD of their collected mistakes.
The coach’s frustration is understandable. Something has to explain his side’s spectacular inconsistency, best characterised perhaps by the 7-1 drubbing of Sparta and the 1-4 embarrassment at home to VVV-Venlo.
Utrecht’s unpredictability has left them anchored in mid-table, well out of the race for the golden Champions League ticket. The current ninth place will be a disappointment, although it would guarantee Utrecht a place in the Uefa Cup playoffs come season’s end, which is some consolation.
If they are to be sure of that at least then Utrecht will have to try to be a bit more consistent in the final three games. And they will have to make it an integral part of their game next season if Van Hanegem is to get the results he and others expect. Bearing in mind what he’s done elsewhere, including a title with Feyenoord in 1993, a higher finish next term would not appear to be out of his reach.
Feyenoord – FC Utrecht
Sunday 6 April, 14:30 at De Kuip
Feyenoord: Timmer; Lucius, Bahia, Hofland (Greene), De Cler; Landzaat, Van Bronckhorst, Sahin; De Guzman, Mols, Bruins.
FC Utrecht: De Ruiter; Cornelisse, Keller, Dickoh, Pieters; Loval, Van Dijk, Van der Gun; George, Nelisse, Wolters.
18/02/2007 Feyenoord - FC Utrecht 2-0
05/03/2006 Feyenoord - FC Utrecht 3-0
19/09/2004 Feyenoord - FC Utrecht 0-3
25/01/2004 Feyenoord - FC Utrecht 3-2
01/12/2002 Feyenoord - FC Utrecht 2-1
19/08/2007 FC Utrecht - Feyenoord 0-3
17/12/2006 FC Utrecht - Feyenoord 2-1
02/10/2005 FC Utrecht - Feyenoord 3-1
20/02/2005 FC Utrecht - Feyenoord 0-2
18/04/2004 FC Utrecht - Feyenoord 0-3