‘The confidence is back,’ said a satisfied Feyenoord head coach Giovanni van Bronckhorst on Friday afternoon, two days ...
Feyenoord take on PSV in the season’s first clash of the titans Sunday lunchtime at the Philips Stadium, but coach Erwin Koeman will have to wait a little longer before finding out whether Charisteas and Boussaboun will be available for selection the titleholders. The two forwards returned from Sofia with a groin and knew complaint respectively and their physical condition will remain in doubt until tomorrow’s training session.
Koeman spent the traditional Friday press conference looking back on Sofia and looking forward to Eindhoven. Despite there still being a lot to do at De Kuip, the coach is happy to be going to Eindhoven to lock horns with big brother Ronald. ‘PSV-Feyenoord is a great advert. I’m looking forward to it. I hope my players will be able to enjoy it on Sunday too, although some of them will have to be fully focused on their own game.’
Koeman was in the stands last Tuesday to see the champions take on Liverpool, but he may not have learned much he didn’t already know. ‘PSV simply played like PSV,’ says Koeman. ‘if you keep Liverpool to 0-0, you’ve done well. PSV is a team with a lot more experience than we have, you saw that in the match against the English. Do we have a chance in Eindhoven? Of course, you always have a chance. PSV is a team with a number of unpredictable players in attack. They basically do what they please and that’s exactly what makes them so dangerous. But that also means that they sometimes give away space at the back. Hopefully we’ll be able to exploit that.’
The question is how, because despite Koeman’s praise for Feyenoord’s resilience in Sofia the coach was also fully aware of his side’s mistakes. Koeman was certainly not satisfied with how his players put his plan into action. ‘That has a lot to do with the lack of personality and insight. If we gift chances to PSV like the ones we gifted to Lokomotiv the ball will be in the back of the net a couple of times, no doubt about it. So we’ll have to do things differently on Sunday. Not all running back when we lose the ball for example, but simply keeping our shape. To put it bluntly: we have to have the courage to play football in Eindhoven. That might sound like an empty statement, but it’s not. We have to take the initiative when we can and involve each other in a good way in the game. We didn’t manage to do that a lot against Lokomotiv, not least because there were a lot of misunderstandings.’
Koeman was typically tight-lipped when it came to any consequences that might have for the composition of his starting eleven in Eindhoven. ‘On the one hand, at this stage it’s important that as the coach I ensure the team is settled. I won’t do that by chopping and changing, all the time. On the other hand, as the coach I have to not wait too long to take action and I have to intervene when the situation demands it. Maybe that time has come on Sunday, but I’m not saying anything about that yet.’
Patrick Kluivert may pull on a PSV shirt for the first time on Sunday to line-up against Feyenoord, although a place on the bench is more likely for a player that arrived in Eindhoven out of shape. A lot is expected of a striker who has failed to settle in the past few years, especially with the departure of good old Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink to Celtic.
The champions have certainly not experienced a bad start, but the lack of a born goal-scorer has caught the eye, not least against Liverpool, and against Twente where PSV went down by a goal to nil.
Other newcomers are Jan Kromkamp, Edison Méndez, Carlos Salcido, Manuel Da Costa, Diego and Tardelli. Méndez has had the biggest impact up to now, scoring a brace in his debut last week. Phillip Cocu’s decision to stay an extra year is also a big boost, as were the ‘resignings’ of Alex, Gomes and Jefferson Farfan.
Sunday 17 September, 12:30 at the Philips Stadium
PSV: Gomes, Kromkamp, Alex, Addo, Reiziger; Culina, Méndez, Simons; Affelay, Farfan, Koné.
Feyenoord: Timmer; Tiendalli, Greene, Bahia, Drenthe; Buijs, Hofs, Lucius, De Guzman; Huysegems, Charisteas (Van Hooijdonk)