Koeman is frustrated that he has to tinker with his line-up from week to week. ‘The unavailability of some important players means that others have to work harder.’ The pinch is felt most in midfield, where Feyenoord are without Theo Lucius, Nicky Hofs and Sebastián Pardo for a protracted period, while Drenthe and Buijs are suspended against FC Groningen. Jacob Lensky is on his way back after a calf injury, but he is not yet fit enough to play.
The unavailability of Alfred Schreuder is also uncertain. The experienced midfielder has missed a couple of days’ training with a hip problem, after getting a kick in the match at Vitesse. Koeman will know more the day before the game, but he expects Schreuder to be available.
With six midfielders sidelined, Koeman has brought 16-year-old Georginio Wijnaldum into the squad. ‘He has a lot of talent; much is expected of him,’ confirms Koeman. Dwight Tiendalli is also likely to return to the squad. The defender has been out for a couple of months, with an infected pubic bone.
GRONINGEN HAVE A FIGHT OF THEIR OWN
FC Groningen have had a disappointing time of things this season after the exciting exploits of the last one. The northerners just missed out on a Champions League place in 2006 when they lost to Ajax in the playoff final, but this time round they are struggling to make the Uefa Cup playoffs.
It might however be better to look at things from another perspective. Since regaining their Eredivisie status in 2000 the club had never finished higher than twelfth until last season. The move to the city’s new Euroborg stadium gave the Groningen outfit a huge lift, which enabled them to end fifth in 2006.
FC Groningen made a reasonably good start to the season, buoyed by an opening-day 3-0 defeat of Feyenoord, but a near catastrophic November and December saw the side spiral down the table on the back of a run of six losses in seven. The 1-7 defeat at FC Twente was the undisputed low point, although 2-5 at home to ADO Den Haag two weeks later – the first loss at Euroborg stadium since its opening – was not exactly inspiring. There was some improvement in the new year, but the best that can be said about FC Groningen is that they are unpredictable. It is surely not coincidental that the last nine league games have resulted in three wins, three draws and three defeats.
The departure of Danny Buijs to Feyenoord has been a blow, as has the loss of central defender Gijs Luirink to AZ. FC Groningen have conceded 50 goals already this term, which does not compare favourably to last season’s 43. On the bright side, Luis Suárez has carved out a reputation for himself as a goal-getter in his freshman season, while Erik Nevland has also contributed his fair share of strikes.
Sunday is the first of four finals for FC Groningen and certainly on paper it looks like the most difficult. But with matches against rivals NEC and FC Utrecht to follow, Ron Jans and his team will be hoping to take at least a point from the Rotterdammers.
Feyenoord - FC Groningen
Sunday 8 April, 14:30 at De Kuip.
Feyenoord: Timmer; Saidi, Vlaar, Bahia; Huysegems (Kolkka), Derijck, Schreuder, De Guzman; Castelen, Charisteas, Van Hooijdonk
FC Groningen: Van Loo: Svejdik, Sankoh, Kruiswijk, Van der Linden: Meerdink, Lovre, Levchenko, Lindgren: Nevland, Suárez
16/10/2005 Feyenoord - FC Groningen 4-1
21/11/2004 Feyenoord - FC Groningen 1-2
02/05/2004 Feyenoord - FC Groningen 1-2
23/02/2003 Feyenoord - FC Groningen 4-1
14/10/2001 Feyenoord - FC Groningen 1-0
20/08/2006 FC Groningen - Feyenoord 3-0
26/02/2006 FC Groningen - Feyenoord 1-1
24/04/2005 FC Groningen - Feyenoord 0-2
02/11/2003 FC Groningen - Feyenoord 3-3
03/11/2002 FC Groningen - Feyenoord 0-2