WE HAVE TO BE AT THE TOP OF OUR GAME, SAYS VAN MARWIJK

It’s thirteen years since Feyenoord and Ajax last locked horns as first and second in the Eredivisie and the current league table certainly adds spice to the biggest game in Dutch football. That said, Bert van Marwijk does not feel he needs to change his preparation going into the encounter. ‘It’s a special match of course, but on the other hand we can only get three points like every other week.’

The coach tried to put the game’s importance into perspective by stating that a defeat would not exactly be the end of the season. ‘If we then won all our games we’d be champions after all.’ Van Marwijk did identify the match as a good test for his team. Feyenoord hardly got a look in against PSV, and to a lesser degree against FC Twente. ‘We have to have learned something from those matches,’ he says.

The coach feels that his players will have to be at the top of their game Sunday. ‘Technically, tactically and mentally.’ Van Marwijk is unlikely to change his own tactics against Ajax, and concentration will be his team’s main focus. ‘Ajax is very strong in attack. The team is a huge threat with Huntelaar, Luque and Suarez.’

Andwélé Slory is likely to join the squad for the first time since the opening league game of the season, although it would seem a little early to give the youngster a full ninety-minute run-out. The striker played one half of this week’s reserve game and still lacks match fitness.

There is a chance that Chun-Soo Lee will make his first start for the club Sunday. The South Korean came off the bench to put in a fine display against De Graafschap last week and Van Marwijk feels he looks fit. The striker also appears to be getting to grips with his role in the team as time wears on.

Kevin Hofland joined the rest of the squad for training against Thursday and he is considered to be fit enough to play after a few weeks with stomach flu.

THE OPPOSITION
The opening months of the season have certainly been fairly hectic at Ajax. Things have not exactly been Zen in Amsterdam in recent years, but this season has really been tumultuous.

The club were first knocked out of the Champions League and then dumped out of the Uefa Cup, which didn’t go down too well in he capital. Coach Henk ten Cate decided to jump ship and join Chelsea, and Jaap Stam announced his immediate retirement from the game.

It all leaves caretaker coach Adrie Koster with quite a job to get his teeth into. Koster was brought into the club as reserve team coach, but he’s now top dog at the Arena. But only for the season, as Ajax target a top-notch replacement to come in when the campaign is over.

At first glance Ajax’s situation seems to have deteriorated over a few short months, but that may be an oversimplification. The long injury list has been a problem for a while now. Important players of the calibre of Edgar Davids and Leonardo have been unavailable for quite some time, while the club will have to wait until the winter transfer window to open before dipping into the market to replace Wesley Sneijder.

It all means that Koster will have to make do for now, although things may not be quite that hopeless. The squad certainly has quality, although recent arrivals have added depth rather than excellence.

EREDIVISIE
Feyenoord – Ajax
Sunday 11 November, 12:30 at De Kuip
Referee: De Bleeckere

PROBABLE LINE-UPS
Feyenoord:
Timmer; Lucius, Hofland, Bahia, De Cler; Sahin, De Guzman, Van Bronckhorst; Lee (D. Buijs), Makaay, Bruins
Ajax: Stekelenburg; Ogararu, Heitinga, Van der Wiel, Emanuelson (Schilder); Gabri, Maduro, Vertonghen; Bakircioglu, Huntelaar, Suarez

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04/02/2007 Ajax - Feyenoord 4-1
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