Bearing in mind Bert van Marwijk’s thoughts last week however, the postponement seems to have entailed more pros than cons for Feyenoord. On Friday the coach confirmed that a number of players were still wrestling with injuries, ‘including some I’d expected to have recovered by now. But that’s been ongoing throughout the last few months.’
The coach feels that the large number of injuries is one of the reasons the side is finding it so hard to pick up their form. Van Marwijk has been forced to field players who were not fully fit in recent weeks, something that only increases the pressure on the group. It is a vicious circle. ‘It is difficult for us to rely on others. We knew we had a small squad; it’s only logical that we’re paying for that now.’
One question worth asking is precisely why there are so many injuries. Van Marwijk does not have a ready answer. ‘The players are doing their level best. It’s very difficult to ascertain why someone gets injured. I do think you are more likely to feel an ache when things are not going so well. That not only goes for football, it applies to all sports.’
Van Marwijk will be unable to call on no fewer than six players in Alkmaar. Five of them are injured – Chun-Soo Lee (foot), Andwelé Slory (hamstring), Nicky Hofs (knee), Ron Vlaar (knee) and Tim Vincken (hamstring) – while the sixth – Jacob Lensky – is on international duty with the Canada Olympic squad.
The memory of the defeat at home to NEC will not make things any easier for Feyenoord against a side Bert van Marwijk rates highly. ‘They have a good team, even though they have had a poor run. I feel they should have beaten Roda JC last week. Louis van Gaal also has more options in his squad than we do.’
AZ could break a highly undesirable record on Wednesday. If they fail to triumph they will extend their winless streak to ten matches. Van Gaal last saw his side win back on 16 January, when De Graafschap were narrowly beaten by the odd goal in three. The subsequent nine games yielded three draws – including one at De Kuip – and six losses, including heavy defeats at Willem II and NEC.
It is fairly obvious that things are not going well at AZ. The team that would have won the title last year if they had won at Excelsior rather than losing as they did now find themselves in danger of being pulled into a relegation scrap. Seven points are all that separate the Alkmaar outfit from participation in the end-of-season relegation playoffs. Bearing in mind the current run of form all eyes at AZ are focused on what is happened below them.
Optimistic supporters will point to the two most recent matches against FC Twente and Roda JC. Successive draws against clubs with ambitions to break into the top five are not to be sniffed at and Van Gaal himself felt that his side deserved to take maximum points in both encounters. It is too early to say whether the AZ juggernaut is back on the road though.
It is difficult to put your finger on what exactly the problem is at the DSB Stadium. It is hardly plausible that the Van Gaal effect has already worn off. Someone who takes his side to within a whisker of the title one season does not become a bad coach within a year. It is also beyond question that the AZ squad has sufficient quality, although the loss of Danny Koevermans and Shota Arveladze has left them short on goal scorers.
The upshot anyway is that AZ are lacking confidence. A win would help inject some of that, especially against a big name like Feyenoord.
AZ – Feyenoord
Wednesday 12 March, 8:00at the DSB Stadium
AZ: Romero; Jaliens, Mendes da Silva, Moreno, Opdam; Augustien, De Zeeuw, Vormer, Pocognoli; Dembélé, Pellè
Feyenoord: Timmer; Lucius, Bahia, Hofland, De Cler (Fer); Landzaat, Van Bronckhorst, Sahin; De Guzman, Makaay, Bruins
30/01/2008 Feyenoord - AZ 2-2
18/11/2006 Feyenoord - AZ 3-2
26/12/2005 Feyenoord - AZ 2-0
03/04/2005 Feyenoord - AZ 4-2
11/02/2004 Feyenoord - AZ 0-3
11/03/2007 AZ - Feyenoord 0-0
19/03/2006 AZ - Feyenoord 1-0
31/10/2004 AZ - Feyenoord 4-1
14/09/2003 AZ - Feyenoord 2-2
15/02/2003 AZ - Feyenoord 1-4