Erwin Koeman was happy to send out a message to his squad ahead of Thursday’s Uefa Cup group E match at AS Nancy. Feyenoord are looking for a win that will take them within reach of the knockout stages and with so many injuries, if that means playing through the pain barrier then so be it, says the Feyenoord coach. ‘I think you have to play in pain occasionally. There are almost no players that play without pain. It’s a way of giving something back to the club.’

Koeman’s words were mainly directed at Karim Saidi. The Tunisian returned from international duty a couple of weeks back with a knee injury, which was a big blow to Koeman, who was in dire need of a player of Saidi’s qualities against AZ. The defender is now back training with the squad but he remains doubtful for Thursday. A lack of viable options means if Koeman has his way Saidi will start however.


Koeman’s message was not meant for Drenthe and Hofs, two players who need to temper their enthusiasm rather than intensify it. Hofs will probably not start, with knee trouble cited. ‘He has already undergone two operations on his cruciate ligaments and the knee has swollen up a little. It’s got to do with the busy fixture list and the fact that I have to call on the same lads so often, and he’s one of them. I won’t be taking any risks with him,’ said Koeman, who does expect to be able to call on Drenthe. ‘If he’s fit he’ll be playing. Otherwise Philippe Léonard will come into the picture.’

Timothy Derijck can look forward to his third start in less than a fortnight. He played well and even scored against AZ, but his performance was much less good against NEC, so Koeman’s decision to play the youngster is not due to a wealth of choice. ‘Timothy is a talent and he can be valuable from time to time. But he isn’t yet at the stage where he can start matches over a prolonged period.’

Saidi is likely to come in for Serginho Greene in central defence, with Greene reverting to right back. The midfield will be made up of Jonathan de Guzman, Danny Buijs and Derijck. Up front Koeman has given an extended run to Kolkka, Charisteas and Huysegems. The final training session at Stade Marcel Picot however suggested that the coach was considering giving Ali Boussaboun a start instead of Huysegems.

Feyenoord will be looking to get the nasty taste of Nijmegen out their mouths against the fifth-placed side in a very tight French league right now – when runaway leaders Lyon are taken out of the mix, the next eight clubs are separated by just two points. Nancy’s home league record of seven wins and a draw is impressive, and when home turf Uefa Cup victories against Wisla Krakow and Schalke 04 are added to the equation, Feyenoord’s task looks even tougher.

The Feyenoord technical staff have watched the French side three times in recent weeks and they have been impressed every time. ‘This is a physically strong and fast side that do not score many but do not give many away either. It’s striking that they are able to rotate five or six players each game. I rate them as the best footballing side in the pool. We will have to work hard that much is clear.’

AS Nancy-Feyenoord
Thursday 30 November, 20:45 at Stade Marcel Picot

Feyenoord: Timmer; Greene, Saidi, Bahia, Drenthe (Léonard); Buijs, De Guzman, Derijck; Kolkka, Charisteas, Boussaboun (Huysegems)
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