FINAL PUSH STARTS HERE

The season enters its decisive final run-in Sunday as Feyenoord travel to Vitesse Arnhem. The Rotterdammers have a two-point lead over chasers SC Heerenveen with five matches left on the fixture list. Bearing in mind that the northerners are 13 goals better off in the goal-difference stakes, it’s vital that Feyenoord win as many of them as possible. ‘Every point is vital at this stage of the season,’ confirms Erwin Koeman. ‘That goes for us, but also for a few other teams. So we need a victory against Vitesse.’

Koeman is sure that his squad are fully aware of what’s at stake as Feyenoord enter an enormously important month. ‘We’ll have to show that in the match too.’ It certainly won’t be easy for the Rotterdammers, as Vitesse look for the win that will bring them nearer a playoff place. ‘For Vitesse it’s do or die Sunday. If they lose, that might well be it.’

Feyenoord can look forward to a fight then, and recent history tends to back that up. The Maassiders had to wait until last season to get their first ever win at the Gelredome, with a Bahia goal that came against the run of play.

Koeman and Co would be happy to repeat the trick again this season, but they will have to do it without Theo Lucius and Serginho Greene. The club captain and his deputy are both injured. The coach feels it is a big blow for his side. There is no news yet as to their replacements.

One player who will most likely be available is Alfred Schreuder. The experienced midfielder has missed the last few games due to a lack of fitness and youngster Timothy Derijck has taken his place. ‘It’s important that Schreuder is able to play Sunday,’ says Koeman. ‘He can motivate others verbally on the pitch. You cannot expect that from the young lads on the pitch.’

Henk Timmer and Romeo Castelen are doubtful. Castelen missed Friday training with water on the knee, but Koeman expects him to make the cut. Timmer is still dealing with sad personal circumstances. The coach is happy to let his keeper decide for himself whether he is ready to play.

CONFIDENCE PERHAPS LOW AT VITESSE
Coach Aad de Mos said the result of Vitesse’s match at FC Utrecht last week would make or break his club’s playoff chances, so the 0-2 loss would not have gone down well in Arnhem. The gap to ninth – the lowest playoff spot – is now six points, but with Feyenoord to come at home and AZ and PSV to be faced away, it looks like a big ask.

Vitesse have not helped themselves in recent weeks either, because that loss at FC Utrecht came on the heels of 2-3 defeats at the hands of RKC Waalwijk and Excelsior, and a draw at ADO Den Haag. That trio happens to be the current bottom three. The last win came as long ago as 21 January, when FC Groningen were beaten 3-2.

It’s interesting to see how many goals Vitesse have been scoring and conceding. De Mos’ side are the Eredivisie’s seventh most free-scoring outfit, yet Vitesse still have a negative goal difference.

Concern about his side’s poor run caused the coach to schedule a friendly against Belgian side Sint-Truiden to try to generate confidence, but it likely had the opposite effect as Vitesse went down 5-1.

The most likely route into Europe for Vitesse now would appear to be the Intertoto Cup, but defender Ruud Knol recently admitted to being less than positive about a competition that gets underway in July. He’s sure not to be alone.

De Mos feels that injuries and suspensions have done it for his side. A prime example is Frenchman Sebastien Sansoni, who chewed on the nose of NEC’s Roy Beerens in February to get himself a five-match ban. Yet in his first game back he duly picked up a yellow card, which rules him out of Sunday’s game. Purrel Fränkel is also suspended, while Giovanny Espinoza returns from a ban of his own.

EREDIVISIE
Vitesse – Feyenoord

Sunday 1 April, 12.30 at Gelredome stadium
Referee: Van de Velde

PROBABLE LINE-UPS
Vitesse:
Stojkovic; Verhaegh, Sprockel, Knol, Blondelle; Due, Kaya, Janssen (Hersi), Pryor; Lazovic, Junker
Feyenoord: Timmer (Ekramy); Buijs, Vlaar, Bahia, Drenthe; Derijck, Schreuder, De Guzman; Castelen, Charisteas, Huysegems

LAST TEN LEAGUE MEETINGS
DE KUIP

05/11/2006 Feyenoord - Vitesse 2-1
06/11/2005 Feyenoord - Vitesse 0-0
23/01/2005 Feyenoord - Vitesse 1-2
22/11/2003 Feyenoord - Vitesse 3-0
12/04/2003 Feyenoord - Vitesse 2-1

GELREDOME
15/01/2006 Vitesse - Feyenoord 0-1
29/08/2004 Vitesse - Feyenoord 1-1
08/02/2004 Vitesse - Feyenoord 0-0
19/10/2002 Vitesse - Feyenoord 1-1
17/02/2002 Vitesse - Feyenoord 2-1

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