The Feyenoord coach sees little worth in thinking about what may or may not happen between now and the end of April, when the regular season wraps up. ‘For a simple reason, because if six months ago you’d told me about everything that was to happen to us in the first half of the season I wouldn’t have believed it. There’s little use looking ahead, that’s been proven again.’ But despite his caginess, Koeman could not but acknowledge that the European playoffs will be the focus over the next three months. A place in the top five is required and the current league position would suggest that is within reach. ‘At the moment you would say we will be gearing up for the playoffs over the coming period,’ according to Koeman, who was nevertheless unwilling to go much further. ‘The next few months will tell where we will finish up.’
Koeman has got more width in his squad now that Alfred Schreuder and Jacob Lensky are available. ‘I’m getting closer and closer to my strongest team,’ admits the coach. ‘The injury to Greene means that Buijs is now at right back. He’s doing well there. But I prefer to put him in midfield. And Castelen is not ready yet. But we are on the right path.’
Castelen, Pieter Collen and Patrick Lodewijks all miss the match against NAC. Collen is likely to turn out for the reserves Monday, but Castelen is not quite ready, although the Dutch international has a good chance of playing second-string football before the month is out. Lodewijks on the other hand will have to bide his time. ‘He will be available in a few weeks,’ says Koeman.
One thing Feyenoord won’t have to worry about Sunday is Leonardo’s dribbling skills. The former Feyenoorder recently made the switch to Ajax, a move that has not gone down particularly well in Rotterdam. The upside is that the Brazilian will not be available to torment his former club as he has tormented so many Dutch sides thus far this season. Leonardo’s input helped MAC to climb into the top half of the table by the end of December after the Breda outfit’s traumatic campaign last year that almost cost it its Eredivisie status.
NAC is not a one-man act however, which was shown last week in the match against Willem II. The two clubs met in Tilburg a week before the rest of the Eredivisie got underway and the visitors took the honours with a two-nil win after late strikes by Glenn Salmon and Mike Zonneveld.
Coach Ernie Brandts still has a couple of old Feyenoortd players in his squad despite Leonardo’s departure. One of them is defender Patrick Mtiliga, who extended his contract at the club earlier in the week. The second is Edwin Zoetebier, who had a bit of a nightmare at De Kuip when the team sides met for the first time this season. Feyenoord won that one 3-2, but NAC will feel they deserved more and they will be trying to rectify that Sunday.
NAC Breda – Feyenoord
Sunday 21 January, 12:30 at Rat Verlegh Stadium
Feyenoord: Timmer; Buijs, Vlaar, Bahia, Drenthe; De Guzman, Lucius, Hofs; Kolkka, Charisteas, Huysegems
NAC Breda: Zoetebier; Elshot, Van Gessel, Zwaanswijk, Mtiliga; Stam, Mathijssen, Zonneveld; Diba, Salmon, Pinas
LAST TEN LEAGUE MEETINGS
1/10/2006 Feyenoord - NAC Breda 3-2
14/8/2005 Feyenoord - NAC Breda 2-0
7/11/2004 Feyenoord - NAC Breda 4-0
31/8/2003 Feyenoord - NAC Breda 2-1
2/3/2003 Feyenoord - NAC Breda 2-1
RAT VERLEGH STADIUM
12/2/2006 NAC Breda - Feyenoord 3-3
10/4/2005 NAC Breda - Feyenoord 0-2
4/4/2004 NAC Breda - Feyenoord 0-3
22/12/2002 NAC Breda - Feyenoord 1-1
4/11/2001 NAC Breda - Feyenoord 2-1