Feyenoord are getting ready for the toughest week of the season so far. The Rotterdammers can look forward to three games in eight days. There’s a city derby with Sparta on Boxing Day and an away game at SC Heerenveen a week on Sunday, but first Feyenoord entertain NEC at De Kuip at the weekend. At least Bert van Marwijk has been able to thoroughly prepare his squad ahead of the Christmas rush after the postponement of last week’s match against AZ due to a police strike. ‘It was great to be able to train focused for two weeks,’ admitted the coach.

One player who has certainly benefited is Chun-Soo Lee. The South Korean was named in the squad for the AZ game after barely stepping off the plane from his homeland. Van Marwijk was left with little choice. It certainly wasn’t ideal for Lee, who will have been happy to see the game called off. ‘The postponement of that game meant he was able to train extra this week,’ asked Van Marwijk. When asked how the burly striker was developing, the coach was positive: ‘It’s starting to fall into place.’

Van Marwijk used the extra training time to go through what went wrong in Venlo. Feyenoord were unable to claim more than a point in a goalless draw against VVV and especially the first -half performance was unacceptable. ‘I said a few things to the players about what they need to change based on that game. Including how they have to start a game.’

Friday did bring good news about Nicky Hofs. The midfielder has been ruled out of training for the past few weeks with a knee injury, but he’s now back training with the rest of the squad. ‘He’s lacking match fitness because he’s been out for the past five weeks,’ admitted Van Marwijk. His condition is not what it should be either. It’s difficult to say how long he might be able to play, but it’s positive to have him back.’

NEC are having a difficult season, picking up points where they can. Captain Peter Wisgerhof sounded the alarm after last week’s one-one draw against De Graafschap. ‘We have to realise we are in a relegation battle,’ admitted the defender. ‘As long as we are not a few points clear, that is the situation.’

Thirteenth place in the league may not seem so dangerous, but look at the points column and you’ll see that the Nijmegen outfit are only three ahead of bottom club Excelsior, while the gap to twelfth-place De Graafschap is seven points.

With that in mind the skipper was only being realistic. NEC have to battle for points every game, regardless of the opponents. Mario Been’s team has failed to hit any real form since the start of the season, so the policy is take points where you can.

It’s a situation that MEC will have to get used to fast, after starting the season with high hopes based on a squad of young Dutch players and a coach who has been successful with youngsters in the past.

NEC – Feyenoord
Sunday 23 December, 12:30 De Goffert
Referee: Luinge

Babos; Nalbantoglu, Olsson, Wisgerhof, El Akchaoui; Vadocz, Holman, Davids; Ntibazonkiza, Van Beukering, Lens
Feyenoord: Timmer; Lucius, Hofland, Bahia, De Cler; Sahin, De Guzman, Van Bronckhorst; Slory, Makaay, Wijnaldum


22/04/2007 Feyenoord - NEC 1-1
11/09/2005 Feyenoord - NEC 3-0
05/12/2004 Feyenoord - NEC 2-1
17/08/2003 Feyenoord - NEC 2-1
18/08/2002 Feyenoord - NEC 2-0

26/11/2006 NEC - Feyenoord 4-1
08/02/2006 NEC - Feyenoord 1-2
08/05/2005 NEC - Feyenoord 2-0
28/01/2004 NEC - Feyenoord 1-2
16/03/2003 NEC - Feyenoord 1-2

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