The defeat to Ajax did have some positive sides to it, feels Koeman. ‘With hindsight the match was maybe good for us. Everything went better for us after that.’ The home matches against top sides PSV and AZ since the rout have gotten good performances out of Feyenoord. ‘But the difference between our home and away games is still too big. We are not steady enough in away games. We play the home games much more comfortably. I think a lot of that is down to the fanatical support of the crowd.’
It remains unclear whether Koeman will be able to call upon Romeo Castelen Sunday. The striker played forty minutes for the reserves last Thursday, but his fitness still has to be assessed ahead of his return to first-team football. Jacob Lensky will certainly be missing. The midfielder was forced out of Friday training with a shoulder problem.
Koeman will also have to do without Royston Drenthe, who is suspended. There is no news on who will be replacing him, although Philippe Léonard will not be given any defensive duties bearing in mind the torrid time the Belgian experienced in the first match against Ajax, against Tom de Mul in particular. ‘In the match at De Kuip Léonard only saw his back,’ noted Koeman coolly.
Ajax will be without Zdenek Grygera (injury) and Jaap Stam (suspension). Koeman feels that the absence of Stam can work in his side’s favour. ‘He clearly has a massive positive influence on their team.’
Edgar Davids will probably start however. ‘I can well understand why Ajax brought in someone like Davids. Young players try to live up to a guy like that. I don’t think he’d be out of place in our team either, but he’s from Amsterdam of course.’
Coach Henk ten Cate was not completely satisfied with his squad at the start of the season, despite some good business in the transfer market in the summer. The team was a better balance of young and experience, but Ten Cate felt he still needed a ball-winner in midfield that can get past his opposite number and play in a team-mate in front of goal. The arrival of Davids has given him that player and the pit bull is likely to start the game against his old rivals Sunday.
Ten Cate also wanted to add a striker to his squad after deciding that Markus Rosenberg was not up to scratch. The Swede moved to Werder Bremen and former Feyenoord player Leonardo was brought in from NAC Breda. The Brazilian has already shown his worth, netting the winner against FC Groningen in just his second match for his new club.
That win lifted Ajax into second place in the league, eight points behind leaders PSV. With the league leaders playing AZ in Eindoven this weekend, a win for Ajax could really put the cat among the pigeons in the title race.
Ajax – Feyenoord
Sunday 4 February 2007, 13:30 at the Amsterdam Arena
Referee: Van Egmond
Ajax: Stekelenburg; Ogararu, Heitinga, Vermaelen, Emanuelson; Gabri, Sneijder, Davids; De Mul, Huntelaar, babel
Feyenoord: Timmer; Buijs, Vlaar, Greene, Bahia; Lucius, Schreuder, De Guzman; Kolkka, Charisteas, Huysegems
LAST TEN LEAGUE MEETINGS
22/10/2006 Feyenoord – Ajax 0-4
23/04/2006 Feyenoord – Ajax 2-4
05/02/2006 Feyenoord – Ajax 3-2
17/04/2005 Feyenoord – Ajax 2-3
11/04/2004 Feyenoord – Ajax 1-1
20/04/2006 Ajax – Feyenoord 3-0
28/08/2005 Ajax – Feyenoord 1-2
14/11/2004 Ajax – Feyenoord 1-1
30/11/2003 Ajax – Feyenoord 2-0
09/02/2003 Ajax – Feyenoord 1-1