VLEMMINGS: LAST CHANCE FOR EUROPA LEAGUE PLAYOFF PLACE

Feyenoord’s injury woes have been a popular refrain this season and this week has unfortunately been no different. The Rotterdammers face NAC Breda Sunday with ten matches to effectively save their season, but once again the coach is confronted with disappointment and uncertainty. Tim de Cler will definitely miss the game, while Diego Biseswar’s status will not be clear until Saturday training is over.

Vlemmings refused to waste too much energy on that front Friday at De Kuip. Especially in light of the much more positive news that Georginio Wijnaldum has extended his contract until the summer of 2012. Denny Landzaat also had reason to smile. The experienced midfielder rejoined group training Friday morning after weeks of individual rehab for a hamstring injury.

Vlemmings is hoping that the team he puts out Sunday keeps the dream of a place in the Europa League alive. For the caretaker coach anything less than victory will end that reverie. ‘We cannot afford to drop any points, because otherwise that last straw we are clutching at will be gone.’

Vlemmings travelled to Alkmaar to see Sunday’s opponents knock AZ out of the cup Thursday. It was a fine win that could inspire NAC or leave them drained. Vlemmings himself is unsure what effect it will have. ‘We’ll know at the end of the match.’

Neither is he taking any lessons from the first fixture between the clubs this season, which Feyenoord won fairly comfortably 3-1. ‘They adopted a wait and see approach then and that is bound to be different on Sunday. They will play to their strengths at home.’

Vlemmings should know of course, because he was assistant coach at NAC for two years before joining Feyenoord in the summer. ‘If you’ve thoroughly enjoyed working someone for two years, it’s always nice to go back,’ admitted Vlemmings. ‘But we shouldn’t make too much of it. It’s about the result on Sunday.’

THE OPPOSITION

NAC Breda’s cup-tie win against champions elect AZ last Thursday caused quite a stir. In an exciting blood-and-guts encounter characterised by a lot of mistakes and some fine goals, NAC managed to squeeze past their hosts thanks to goals from Nourdin Boukhari and Anthony Lurling.

Although the opponents were table-topping AZ, the win was not that much of a surprise. NAC have been a good cup side in recent years and this year’s semi-final appearance will be the fourth in five seasons. Unfortunately, NAC have not managed to get to the final in all of those attempts, but Lurling is looking to rectify that this season. ‘I’m hoping for a yellow Kuip’, says the former Feyenoord player.

To make that possible his team will have to beat the second team in the league, FC Twente. While the other goal-scorer in Alkmaar, Boukhari, bigged up their chances by claiming that ‘AZ are much better than FC Twente’, it was just a month ago that Robert Maaskant’s were given a thrashing in Enschede.

Feyenoord is the team that stopped NAC from getting to the final last year, although the Breda outfit took revenge two weeks later by claiming victory at Rat Verlegh Stadium. Feyenoord also won the game between the clubs earlier this season at De Kuip. It will be interesting to see whether the hosts still have the AZ game in their legs when the team lock horns again Sunday.

Victory against Feyenoord would keep NAC no more than six points behind fifth-place PSV, while defeat would all but end their hopes of finishing in the upper regions of the table. After a fine start to the season, including a brief sojourn at the top of the league, NAC have fallen back to seventh. Even after last season’s third place, it would be a good achievement, especially if it was combined with lifting the cup.

EREDIVISIE
NAC Breda – Feyenoord
Sunday 8 March, 14:30 at Rat Verlegh Stadium

Referee: Wiedemeijer

PROBABLE LINE-UPS
NAC Breda: Ten Rouwelaar; Fehér, Loran, Penders, Mtiliga; Cairo, Kwakman, Gorter; Kolkka, Boukhari and Lurling.
Feyenoord: Timmer; Lucius (Leerdam), Bahia, Hofland, Van Bronckhorst; El Ahmadi, Tomasson, Fer; Wijnaldum, Makaay and Biseswar (Slory).

STATISTICS
AWAY
30/03/2008 NAC Breda - Feyenoord 3-1
21/01/2007 NAC Breda - Feyenoord 4-1
12/02/2006 NAC Breda - Feyenoord 3-3
10/04/2005 NAC Breda - Feyenoord 0-2
04/04/2004 NAC Breda - Feyenoord 0-3

HOME
26/12/2008 Feyenoord - NAC Breda 3-1
26/08/2007 Feyenoord - NAC Breda 5-0
01/10/2006 Feyenoord - NAC Breda 3-2
14/08/2005 Feyenoord - NAC Breda 2-0
07/11/2004 Feyenoord - NAC Breda 4-0

BIG MATCH FACTS
Roy Makaay is a goal away from his three hundredth goal in club football. The striker has scored 31 times for Feyenoord.

Jon Dahl Tomasson is 3 strikes away from his 100th Eredivisie goal. The Dane has netted 60 times for Feyenoord and another 37 for Heerenveen.

If selected, Serginho Greene will make his 200th league appearance (Eredivisie and second tier).

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