It was great to see two players make their Feyenoord debut last weekend. Both 18-year-old Erwin Mulder and 17-year-old Leroy Fer made their bows in the first team, although it was thrust on them by circumstance. However satisfied Bert van Marwijk was with both youngsters’ performance, that they were needed showed how threadbare the Rotterdammers’ squad has become in recent weeks.

Van Marwijk’s problems increased last weekend when Giovanni van Bronckhorst was all but ruled out of Sunday’s match at VVV Venlo after twisting his knee against Heracles.

If Van Bronckhorst is unable to play, Van Marwijk will be left with quite a puzzle. He does not have a like-for-like replacement in his squad, so there’s every chance he will tinker with his system. The coach was unable to give any pointers Friday. ‘I could switch the formation around or put someone else in Giovanni’s position. I’m leaving both options open.’

With the days counting down to the opening of the transfer window, Van Marwijk is fully aware of the gaps in his squad. ‘We could use someone in every area, but they will have to be players that add something. The choice of which area we strengthen depends in part on what we can get.’

The only plus going into Sunday’s game is that Henk Timmer will most likely return between the posts, after missing last week’s game with a knee gash. The keeper passed the last test during Friday training with flying colours and told his coach personally that the wound was not giving him much trouble, although it is not completely closed yet. Michael Mols also returns to the squad after a three-match suspension.

The other good news is that Tim Vincken and Nicky Hofs both returned to the training pitch during the week. The two forwards are advancing in their rehab although it is difficult to say how long it will be before they are back in the thick of it.

It looks like VVV Venlo might just have identified just what they need to stay in the Eredivisie this season. Early elimination in the cup and heavy defeats in the league can be tolerated, as long as enough points are picked up to stay ahead of at least three other clubs at the bottom of the table.

VVV are working at maximum efficiency, no more no less. The plan is clear – take points off the other clubs in that mini-league at the bottom. And the Venlo outfit are putting it into action with impressive effect. Excelsior, Willem II and Sparta have all been beaten, while Heracles had to do with a point despite having home advantage.

All the club’s points have come in those four games against the bottom four, while the remaining nine fixtures have all ended in defeat. The worst losses came at the hands of Ajax in Amsterdam (1-6), AZ in Alkmaar (0-4), Heerenveen at home and (0-4) Roda JC at home (3-5), but VVV’s goal difference is actually the best of any in the bottom five save Willem II.

That’s quite an achievement for a side with no fewer than 15 new arrivals, the most noteworthy of whom is Jason Oost. The squad has gelled quickly under the leadership of head coach André Wetzel, who has a clear vision on what he expects from his players and the ability to convey it in the right way.

VVV thus welcome Feyenoord to Venlo Sunday with nothing at all to lose and everything to gain.

VVV Venlo – Feyenoord
Sunday 9 December, 12:30 at De Koel Stadium

Wintjens; Mampuya, Reekers, Verdellen, Blondelle; Kahya, Linssen, Auassar, Leemans; Oost, Amrabat
Feyenoord: Timmer; Lucius, Hofland, Bahia, De Cler; Sahin, De Guzman, Van Bronckhorst (D. Buijs); Slory, Makaay, Wijnaldum


16/01/1994 Feyenoord - VVV-Venlo 5-0
26/01/1992 Feyenoord - VVV-Venlo 5-1
27/10/1993 VVV-Venlo - Feyenoord 1-1
06/09/1991 VVV-Venlo - Feyenoord 0-1
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