HUNGRY FEYENOORD READY FOR THE CHAMPIONS

The Eredivisie gets back underway this weekend with a tasty encounter between the two sides at the top of the table. Feyenoord were denied top spot at the turn of the year on goal difference, but now have the chance to edge ahead of their rivals with a win at De Kuip Saturday evening. ‘Every game is important, but this one’s very important,’ admitted Bert van Marwijk, who used similar vocabulary to describe the coming month. ‘It is the most important period of the season.’ The first disappointment came ahead of the first of a series of tough fixtures. Andwélé Slory will miss the top-of-the-table clash and an as yet unknown number of additional matches. Theo Lucius also misses out by dint of a suspension.

Feyenoord have to go for the title, said Van Marwijk Friday afternoon. It goes with the club’s standing as joint leader at the end of the year. ‘It would be ridiculous not to say that when you look at the table. Emotionally, you’d say; we have to go for it. But you must not forget either that the squad is fairly thin. If we reinforce the team in two lines it would mean we would immediately have more strength in depth. I would appreciate it enormously if reinforcements were to arrive. But if it’s not possible, then so be it. It’s as simple as that.’

Van Marwijk consequently has to do with the squad he has been working with in the run-up to the return to league action. The winter break has been meagre this year, but it’s given the squad enough time to regain the sharpness that appeared to be missing at the end of last year. ‘The players have impressed me with their hunger. They are fit and sharp. They’ll need to be against PSV.’

Until Thursday it looked like Van Marwijk would have an almost complete squad to choose from. Apart from long-term treatment room regulars Ron Vlaar and Sherif Ekramy, the coach was able to work with just about the full playing staff. Luigi Bruins and Nicky Hofs certainly looked in good shape, as confirmed by Van Marwijk (‘They are back to full fitness’). But Thursday saw Slory forced out of training with a hamstring problem that has cost him his place against PSV. It is as yet unclear how long the forward will be sidelined.

There was a silver lining for Van Marwijk however, with the news that Henk Timmer has agreed to extend his Feyenoord contract for another year. ‘Henk has performed above expectations,’ commented the coach. ‘I’m glad we’re keeping him.’

THE OPPOSITION

These have been eventful weeks in Eindhoven. The good news is that PSV are back on top of the Eredivisie, although to say that things have been calmer at the Philips Stadium is certainly an understatement.

It all started with the departure of Ronald Koeman, who felt that Valencia was a bigger challenge than PSV. General manager Jan Reker expected to be able to present Martin Jol or Fred Rutter as the club’s new head coach fairly soon, but he was disappointed. With Huub Stevens also unavailable at the moment, Jan Wouters will help take PSV through to the end of the year as assistant coach to Sef Vergoossen.

Vergoossen and Wouters have taken the reigns after what may have be the most hectic weeks in recent seasons. PSV were knocked out of the Champions League, suffered defeats at both Roda JC and FC Groningen within a month and saw Kenneth Perez return to Ajax after eighteen months in Eindhoven. Keeper Heurelho Gomes added to the turmoil by heavily criticising the club, although he backtracked somewhat after being often vastly improved terms.

The main task now is getting PSV back on track on the pitch. New coach Sef Vergoossen certainly has a job on his hands, especially as he will likely have to pass the baton onto Huub Stevens come the summer.

EREDIVISIE
Feyenoord – PSV
Saturday 11 January, 20:00 at De Kuip
Referee: Vink

PROBABLE LINE-UPS
Feyenoord
: Timmer; Greene, Bahia, Hofland, De Cler; Sahin, Hofs, Van Bronckhorst; De Guzman, Makaay, Bruins

PSV: Gomes; Kromkamp, Marcellis, Salcido, Zonneveld; Méndez, Simons, Afellay, Aissati; Farfán, Lazovic

STATISTICALLY SPEAKING
HOME
26/12/2006 Feyenoord – PSV 1-1
11/12/2005 Feyenoord – PSV 1-0
12/12/2004 Feyenoord – PSV 3-3
21/09/2003 Feyenoord – PSV 1-3
18/05/2003 Feyenoord – PSV 3-1
AWAY
26/12/2006 Feyenoord – PSV 1-1
11/12/2005 Feyenoord – PSV 1-0
12/12/2004 Feyenoord – PSV 3-3
21/09/2003 Feyenoord – PSV 1-3
18/05/2003 Feyenoord – PSV 3-1
Feyenoord Business CLub
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