Bert van Marwijk admitted last Friday that the Christmas bug has yet to infect him. The coach has been plying his trade in Germany in recent seasons, where the winter break started last week already, while the Eredivisie extends right up to the end of the year nowadays. It means that Van Marwijk and his squad have a date at De Kuip on Tuesday evening. ‘I have to relieve them of the Christmas spirit for the game with Sparta on Boxing Day,’ explained the coach Sunday. ‘So I’m having them get into their tracksuits. At least everyone will know that we have a game coming up.’

Van Marwijk could certainly imagine a better scenario. ‘For me, football during the holidays is just not necessary at all. I’d rather have the German league. They take at least five or six weeks off.’ On the evidence of past seasons though, Feyenoord really appear to be a Christmas team. Boxing Day seems to be a bad time to meet them. Two years ago AZ were sent packing with a 2-0 defeat, while champions PSV had to do with a point in a 1-1 draw last time round.

If Van Marwijk is not perked up by that stat, he will be happier about the fact that the treatment room is less popular among his players at the moment. Nicky Hofs returned to first-team action on Sunday and Luigi Bruins may do the same on Wednesday after making a full recovery from the hamstring injury he picked up against Ajax.

Sherif Ekramy and Tim Vincken are also on the way back to fitness, although neither is likely to put in an appearance in the squad before the winter break. With Dwight Tiendalli and Jacob Lensky well on the way to recovery, the coach will be hoping the new year will be a bright one.


Sparta’s fortunes are perhaps best summed up by the season Sander Westerveld is having. The 33-year-old keeper joined the club in September with a view to putting himself in the shop window for a quick return to foreign pastures.

The six-time international’s career has taken him to Liverpool, Real Sociedad and Real Mallorca, but his performances thus far have been well under that standard. Westerveld was hired to step into the boots of injured first-choice goalie Harald Wapenaar, but the statistics suggest that the Rotterdammers might have been better off looking a little closer to home.

The club did keep its first clean sheet against NEC recently, following that up with a win against Roda JC, but those four points came on the back of some hefty defeats. Both PSV and De Graafschap racked up four against the Rotterdammers, while FC Utrecht managed seven.

Those losses were not exclusively the blame of Westerveld of course, although the keeper’s form has been a good reflection of the team’s as a whole. Sparta started the season with a new coach (Gert Aandewiel), a new technical manager (Danny Blind) and a clutch of new players (including Nourdin Boukhari, Olaf Lindenbergh and Arne Slot). Expectations were high, but performances have failed to match them up to now. The club has been dumped out of the cup and are level on points with third bottom Excelsior in the league.

Feyenoord – Sparta
Wednesday 26 December, 12:30 at De Kuip

Timmer; Lucius, Hofland, Bahia, De Cler; Sahin, De Guzman, Van Bronckhorst; Slory, Makaay, Lee
Sparta: Westerveld; De Roover, Adeleye, Schenkel, Polak; Moreno Freire, Rose, Van Bueren, Rutjes; Dissels, Roberts


23/12/2006 Feyenoord - Sparta 3-2
19/02/2006 Feyenoord - Sparta 4-0
19/08/2001 Feyenoord - Sparta 5-0
29/11/2000 Feyenoord - Sparta 2-1
26/03/2000 Feyenoord - Sparta 1-2
10/09/2006 Sparta - Feyenoord 1-4
21/08/2005 Sparta - Feyenoord 1-3
24/03/2002 Sparta - Feyenoord 0-5
15/10/2000 Sparta - Feyenoord 1-4
04/12/1999 Sparta - Feyenoord 1-3
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