Bert van Marwijk bandied about the different conjugations of the verb ‘underestimate’ before Saturday’s Eredivisie match against Excelsior as he has done on many occasions already this season. ‘We must never underestimate any opponent,’ reiterated the Feyenoord coach Friday. While it may be true that Feyenoord top the table at this early juncture, it is also true that the league leaders are there to be shot at. Even –or perhaps especially – by a lower-ranked city rival like Excelsior.

Van Marwijk’s team is still too vulnerable to a number of factors. Including complacency. ‘The match against Excelsior demands discipline from the players,’ says the coach. ‘There will be little space, so we cannot have too many players following the ball.’

Injury plays an important role too. As late as Friday the availability of players of the calibre of Kevin Hofland, Serginho Greene and Nicky Hofs remained in doubt. If the trio hadn’t made the cut it would have been a big blow to Van Marwijk, who would have had to scratch around for replacements. The good news at the end of the working week was that all three would be fit enough to play if selected, but that does not eliminate the underlying problem; that Feyenoord’s squad is not characterised by too much strength in depth.

The best example is perhaps the loss of Sherif Ekramy, who is recovering from a shoulder injury. Erwin Mulder’s international call up with the Dutch under 19 team means that Patrick Lodewijks will take his place on the bench for Saturday’s game. ‘I could have called in the fourth- or fifth-choice keeper,’ explained Van Marwijk, ‘but I opted for Patrick, bearing in mind De Kuip will be full.’

Michael Mols will miss the encounter after picking up a three-match ban after an alleged violent conduct in a reserve game last week. Van Marwijk was unhappy with the sanction: ‘He and we have been dealt with unjustly. Even the opponents said he didn’t consciously attack with his arm and I saw it with my own eyes.’


Excelsior have had some great seasons in the first division – the country’s second tier league – down the years, winning six promotions, three of them as champions. But every time the Kralingen club has been promoted to the Eredivisie, subsequent relegation has been more or less inevitable. Looking at the club’s history, Excelsior should be pleased to have survived for a second season in the top flight of Dutch football. Staying there has never been a given. The club’s longest run was five seasons in the mid-eighties (1982-1987).

From that perspective it may be only a matter of time before Excelsior return to the second tier. Last season, relegation was staved off in the playoffs, but it’s no surprise that seven of the twelve experts in the country’s leading football magazine Voetbal International tipped Excelsior to go straight down this term. The other five felt Excelsior would find themselves back in the playoffs.

The season has started a little better than that however with Excelsior fourth bottom, although they are there only on goal difference. Ton Lokhoff’s side have taken four points from the first seven games, or more correctly from the last two, as the opening five matches all ended in defeat. The cup-tie against VVV also ended in a win. Excelsior will be looking to defend that three-game unbeaten run against their city neighbours.

Feyenoord – Excelsior
Saturday 19 October, 20:00 at De Kuip

Timmer; Lucius, Hofland, Bahia, De Cler; Sahin, Hofs, Van Bronckhorst; De Guzman, Makaay, Bruins
Excelsior: Graafland; Bandjar, Van Dieren, Van Nieuwstadt, Piqué; Van Guldener, Altheer, Luijckx, Guijo-Velasco; Den Ouden, Korf


24/09/2006 Feyenoord - Excelsior 1-0
10/09/2002 Feyenoord - Excelsior 4-1

24/09/2006 Feyenoord - Excelsior 1-0
10/09/2002 Feyenoord - Excelsior 4-1
Feyenoord Business CLub