Feyenoord face a tough fixture programme with three matches in seven days, before the trip to Ajax at the beginning of February. How Feyenoord come out of that series will play a big role in shaping the rest of their season, although Bert van Marwijk is unwilling to look that far ahead. ‘If we don’t get through that week well, we’ll be out of the race, it’s true. I’m not thinking about Groningen or AZ yet, but about FC Twente. That’s a game I’m looking forward too,’ admits the coach.
After last week’s debacle Feyenoord will be looking to put things right against their visitors from Enschede Thursday evening. Van Marwijk is certainly fired up, showing his motivation to get the side back on track by saying that he ‘would like to take part’ himself.
Hopefully it won’t come to that, although Van Marwijk does have to cope with a string of injuries that has weakened his squad. The latest came Wednesday afternoon, with the news that Tim de Cler is by no means certain to start against Twente. The decision may have to be delayed until after the warming-up.
With Danny Buijs and Kevin Hofland both ruled out of contention on Tuesday, Van Marwijk may have to face Twente without three of the four defenders that started against Excelsior. The fourth – Theo Lucius – is not hundred per cent either, although his availability is not in doubt at the moment.
It will be interesting to see how Van Marwijk approaches the loss of De Cler. Giovanni van Bronckhorst is an experienced left back, but the coach will not jump at the chance to take his captain out of midfield and put him into defence. Dwight Tiendalli returns to the match-day squad and he may be preferred, but that too would be a big change. ‘Jacob Lensky could play there, but he’s injured. So all told we don’t have a left back,’ explained Van Marwijk.
Despite the injuries, Feyenoord are targeting a win and a good performance to exercise their demons after last week’s sorry defeat. You can only do that in a match, says Van Marwijk. The coach was still preoccupied with the loss five days on. ‘And especially the start of the game. It was completely unacceptable. I cannot explain it, neither can the lads. Virtually all the defenders were four, five, six metres away from their man. It was certainly not a lack of will, I’ve no doubt about that. We are not playing well at the moment. We have to show character no more than ever.’
Many outsiders expected that FC Twente’s fine league form last season would prove to be a flash in the pan. The Enschede outfit have been nudging the top six for a few years, but finally broke through last term, claiming a fourth-place finish.
Importantly, they did so with attractive, attacking football, despite a dearth of eye-catching names. At least at the start of the campaign, because by the summer Twente found themselves struggling to hold onto a number of players. Aissati and Bakkal moved back to PSV, while Bakircioglu opted to continue his career at Ajax. They were replaced by players from clubs lower down the league. Romano Denneboom arrived from NEC; Eljero Elia from ADO Den Haag.
The policy seems to have paid off however. Players that failed to set the world alight elsewhere are in the form of their life at Twente and are gradually attracting the interest of the bigger clubs.
Much of that is down to Fred Rutten. The coach did his apprenticeship under Guus Hiddink, before spreading his wings and leaving the nest. He flew so well that PSV asked him to be their new coach. Rutten was no doubt flattered, but opted nonetheless to stay where he was so that he could finish the job.
His team are doing as well as they did last year and are actually bang on target to match the 66 points they garnered in 2006-07. It all means that European football is well within reach and if the top sides continue to drop points as they have been doing they may even have a sniff of the title.
Feyenoord – FC Twente
Thursday 23 January 2008, 20:00 at De Kuip
Referee: Van Egmond
Feyenoord: Timmer; Lucius, Greene, Bahia, De Cler (Tiendalli); Sahin, De Guzman, Van Bronckhorst; Slory, Makaay, Bruins
FC Twente: Boschker; Wilkshire, Zomer, Wielaert, Brama; El Ahmadi, Huysegems, Engelaar; Denneboom, N’Kufo, Elia
26/10/2006 Feyenoord - FC Twente 2-1
02/04/2006 Feyenoord - FC Twente 4-2
12/09/2004 Feyenoord - FC Twente 3-1
01/02/2004 Feyenoord - FC Twente 3-2
02/02/2003 Feyenoord - FC Twente 4-2
27/10/2007 FC Twente - Feyenoord 2-0
11/02/2007 FC Twente - Feyenoord 3-0
25/09/2005 FC Twente - Feyenoord 1-3
29/01/2005 FC Twente - Feyenoord 0-0
13/12/2003 FC Twente - Feyenoord 4-2