ONLY A WIN WILL DO AGAINST WISLA

It’s all or nothing tomorrow when Feyenoord entertain Wisla Krakow at De Kuip in the Uefa Cup. The Poles just need a point to send the Rotterdammers crashing out of the competition before it reaches the knockout stage. Erwin Koeman has cut his cloth accordingly, although the suspension of Royston Drenthe has forced his hand somewhat. Ron Vlaar starts his first European match for Feyenoord, despite not been fully recovered from a long-term problem. Injuries to defenders Dwight Tiendalli and Karim Saidi means that Koeman has had to pick and mix.

The outcome of the coach’s deliberations is a left-back remit for Greene and a place at centre half for Vlaar. Danny Buijs will play right back, with skipper Theo Lucius in midfield.

Erwin Koeman knows what he can look forward to at De Kuip on Wednesday. The coach has studied videos of the Polish outfit and has complemented that with extensive information from his assistants Duut and Metgod, who have watched Wisla in the flesh on three occasions. ‘Wisla are a team with two faces. Against Blackburn Rovers they were very attacking, which automatically led to them giving away a lot of space in midfield. I expect another style of playing tomorrow. Wisla only need as draw against us, so I think they’ll play with no more than two strikers. It’s more likely they’ll play with one, with a second attacker deep.’

With that in mind Koeman has told his players to be patient against the Poles. ‘That doesn’t mean we should take it easy, but that we have to avoid charging forward like the cavalry from the first whistle,’ clarified Koeman. ‘We have 90 minutes to win this match. You always get a chance. So we’ll have to concentrate on hitting them when the time is right.’

Despite hopes to the contrary, keeper Sherif Ekramy will not be available as backup goalie for the match. ‘His injury is giving him pain again and he’s not fit enough to be on the bench. Erwin Mulder is the reserve keeper against Wisla. Hopefully Sherif will be in the dugout against FC Utrecht.’

Feyenoord meet one of the greatest clubs in the history of Polish football on Wednesday. The club likes to think that every other football fan in the nation is a Wisla fan. That may be a touch optimistic, but there’s a grain of truth in there someone. The Krakow outfit is celebrating its centenary this year, but it was unable to crown it with a championship. It wasn’t exactly an unrealistic goal for a club that took the title three times in 2003-05.

A second place behind Legia Warsaw was a disappointment, but the club has not allowed it to ruin its year. Because otherwise things are looking up. The club’s stadium was recently expanded to accommodate 20,000 spectators, a modern training centre is under construction, and on the pitch the club has become a European regular, although Wisla have failed to make too much progress in either the Champions League or the UEFA Cup.

This year’s roster still have a chance to progress to the other side of the new year after a 3-1 win at home to Basel in the last game. It means that the Poles will finish ahead of Feyenoord with a draw at De Kuip. If that happens, the Krakow outfit will be hoping they can match their quarterfinal in 1978/1979, which remains the club’s best ever European effort.

The Poles will certainly not feel that a draw is beyond them. A poor start to the season under the tutelage of former Romania and Chelsea defender Dan Petrescu forced the club management to take action and since swapping Petrescu for Serbian Dragomir Okuka Wisla have started to shine.

The Wisla squad is a mix of homegrown players and former Eastern bloc nationals, although it also includes the requisite Brazilian duo and even an Australian who once played for Feyenoord – and we mean once – Jacob Burns.


UEFA CUP GROUP E
Feyenoord–Wisla Krakau
Wednesday 13 December, 20:45 at De Kuip
Referee: Dondarini (Italy)

PROBABLE LINE-UP
Feyenoord: Timmer; Buijs, Vlaar, Bahia, Greene; Hofs, Lucius, De Guzman; Kolkka, Charisteas, Huysegems.

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