After Feyenoord’s second round cup win against FC Utrecht Bert van Marwijk stated that the country’s premium knockout competition was more important to the club than many might think. His side had just been rolled over 4-0 by PSV in the league and it was uncertain how Feyenoord would react. The way the Rotterdammers rolled over FC Utrecht at De Kuip – winning 3-0 – was more than satisfactory to Van Marwijk.

The KNVB Cup returns to De Kuip Thursday, with Groningen the visitors in the third round of the competition. Interestingly, the game comes on the back of Feyenoord’s second league loss of the current campaign, a 2-0 defeat at FC Twente. Van Marwijk for one is fairly unambiguous about his expectations: ‘I want to see a fully charged Feyenoord.’

Feyenoord showed not only tactical naivety, but also a lack of mental strength against Twente in the eyes of the coach. Van Marwijk picked out a couple of times that Roy Makaay was flagged offside when there were reasonable grounds for doubt. ‘I have to say it was difficult for me to see on the pitch whether it really was [offside]. But I didn’t see my players go to the referee or referee’s assistant. We have to learn a lesson from that. I won’t be satisfied until that improves.’ Thursday provides an early opportunity to respond to that demand.

Van Marwijk’s side will in any event have to do so without Nicky Hofs. The midfielder twisted his knee in training Wednesday and it locked up, most likely due to a tear in the meniscus. Hofs is expected to go in for exploratory surgery before the end of the week.

Andwélé Slory will also miss the tie. The striker returned to squad training earlier in the week, but still lacks match fitness. Other absentees are Ron Vlaar and Tim Vincken, who have both been out for some time, as well as Sherif Ekramy and Dwight Tiendalli, who are both training alone at the moment.

The two-leg Uefa Cup tie against Fiorentina appears to have given FC Groningen more than a resounding headache. After two 1-1 draws against a team that includes Adrian Mutu and Christian Vieri the Italians were a little better in the penalty series, ending Groningen’s European adventure before it had really got going.

The double-header against the Tuscans does seem to have focused minds in the north however. Groningen were out of form before the home game against Fiorentina, but coach Ron Jans looks to have got his team on track since then. It is almost as though the squad needed confirmation that they were good enough to give a side of the calibre of Fiorentina a hard game or two.

Groningnen started the season sluggishly, losing to De Graafschap and FC Utrecht – games they should really be putting away – but more recently Jans has seen his side draw against AZ and beat FC Twente. An 8-1 win at IJsselmeervogels in the cup set up Thursday’s third round tie against Feyenoord.

Those results would suggest that Groningen are finally getting into their stride this season. Last year’s eighth place – which was converted into a Uefa Cup place in the playoffs at Feyenoord’s expense – is evidence of what this squad can do. Playmaker Luis Suárez did leave the club in the close season, but otherwise the squad has remained intact. Two Swedish internationals, Marcus Berg and Fredrik Stenman, were recruited before the campaign got underway.

The games against Fiorentina showed that Groningen are difficult to break down, so Feyenoord will have their work cut out if they are to gain revenge for the northerners exploits against them last season in the playoffs.

Feyenoord – FC Groningen
Thursday 1 November, 20:45 at De Kuip
Referee: Van Sichem

Feyenoord: Timmer; Lucius, Hofland, Bahia, De Cler; Sahin, De Guzman, Van Bronckhorst; Lee (D. Buijs), Makaay, Bruins
FC Groningen: Van Loo; Silva, Sankoh, Svejdik, Stenman; Meerdink, Lindgren, Lovre, Levchenko; Nevland, Van de Laak
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