DERBY KICKS OFF TRICKY SEASONAL SERIES

Feyenoord start their winter break run in with the visit of Sparta to De Kuip on Saturday evening. It’s the first of three matches in six days, which also sees Feyenoord take on PSV on Boxing Day and Excelsior on 29 December. That represents a robust sequence for Erwin Koeman’s men and it will teach the coach much about his squad. ‘The strongest players will come through now; that’s interesting to see,’ admits the coach, who does have some personnel problems ahead of Feyenoord’s second city derby of the season.

Seringho Greene will remain doubtful right down to the wire. The versatile defender is suffering from a painful knee and there’s every chance he’ll miss the derby. With tough matches coming up against PSV and Excelsior before the turn of the year, Koeman is likely to give the defender rest if there’s any lingering misgivings about his fitness. Lorenzo Davids has already been called into the squad in connection with suspensions to Royston Drenthe and Danny Buijs.

Greene’s was not the most striking bit of news that Koeman had to communicate Friday afternoon. Nor was that the return of Dwight Tiendalli after four weeks out. The real breaking news at De Kuip was the announcement that Alfred Schreuder has been added to the squad for the first time in more than a year. The experienced midfielder was not expected to return to the fold until the training camp in Turkey during the winter break, but his rehab is going so well that he’s been included in the sixteen against Sparta. It doesn’t mean that the player will be given any pitch time, admitted Koeman. ‘We are handling Alfred with a lot of care, that’s only natural I think. If he plays it’ll be for ten, fifteen minutes tops. But he is available to play, he says that himself. He’s trained with the group a couple of times and there was no problem. It’s very good news.’

Koeman also touched on Feyenoord’s current fifth place in the Eredivisie. ‘We deserve to be where we are now. We want more of course; I want very much that too. But we have to be realistic. We could have been second or third, because we have had the chances. But we failed to capitalise against Utrecht and NEC, which demonstrated that we are not stable enough yet.’

Sparta started the season very sluggishly, taking up residence at the bottom of the table as the vultures started to gather above Het Kasteel Stadium. The local media questioned Wiljan Vloet’s ability to pilot the side to safety, but the coach kept his head and a recent spate of good results has enabled the club to climb out of the relegation and playoff zone.

For a long time no one wanted to be Wiljan Vloet. The first win of the season only came at the end of October and it was the coach and not the meagreness of his squad that was blamed. It didn’t help that new arrival, striker Yannis Anastasiou – personally recommended by Vloet – had failed to break his duck. It seemed just a matter of time before the coach would be bussing out of Sparta

The spell was finally broken however with a 1-0 win against Willem II in late October, a week after a 0-7 thumping at PSV. Subsequent wins against ADO and NEC where topped off with a 3-0 walloping of Ajax at home. Heracles were the fifth side to succumb to Sparta this season. That 3-2 win on 9 December was Saturday’s visitors’ second away win in three.


EREDIVISIE
Feyenoord – Sparta
Saturday 23 December, 20:00 at De Kuip
Referee: Braamhaar

PROBABLE LINE-UPS
Feyenoord: Timmer; Tiendalli, Vlaar, Derijck, Bahia; Hofs, Lucius, De Guzman; Kolkka, Charisteas, Huysegems
Sparta: Terol; De Roover, Olfers, Schenkel, Polak; Medunjanin, Moreno Freire, Obodai; Vlug, Cvetkov, Bouaouzan

LAST TEN LEAGUE MEETINGS

DE KUIP
19/2/2006 Feyenoord - Sparta Rotterdam 4-0
19/8/2001 Feyenoord - Sparta Rotterdam 5-0
29/11/2000 Feyenoord - Sparta Rotterdam 2-1
26/3/2000 Feyenoord - Sparta Rotterdam 1-2
5/4/1999 Feyenoord - Sparta Rotterdam 1-0

HET KASTEEL STADIUM
10/9/2006 Sparta Rotterdam - Feyenoord 1-4
21/8/2005 Sparta Rotterdam - Feyenoord 1-3
24/3/2002 Sparta Rotterdam - Feyenoord 0-5
15/10/2000 Sparta Rotterdam - Feyenoord 1-4
4/12/1999 Sparta Rotterdam - Feyenoord 1-3

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