KOEMAN CONFIDENT GOING INTO DERBY

Despite last week’s calamitous collapse at NAC Breda, Erwin Koeman is confident that his side will not go into Sunday’s city derby with Sparta with negative thoughts. Not least because Feyenoord played one of their best games of the season in Breda. ‘If we hadn’t created any chances we would have had a minor problem. But the opposite was true, so I’m not worrying. Hopefully it was a very good lesson,’ says the coach.

While Koeman did spend some time reviewing last week’s draw, he did not waste too many words on defending himself against suggestions that his decision to bring on Pierre van Hooijdonk lost his side two points. ‘I have my views on that, which will remain private. I did express my thoughts about that in the group. That’s what I mean when I say that I have the courage to adopt a vulnerable position as a coach.’ The much-discussed substitution would never have been given much attention if Feyenoord has expressed their superiority in goals as it should have done, admitted the coach. ‘We all talked about it and everyone agreed that it was too easy until ten or so minutes before time. It was a mistake to think that it was over, because it never is at 3-1. If it becomes 3-2 the opposition always finds new strength. At 4-1 the chances of that happening are much smaller. We failed to get another one, although we had enough chances. But we sometimes showed a lack of togetherness, like with De Guzman’s chance. He went for glory, while Castelen was in a better position.’
 
Koeman doesn’t feel his side have anything to worry unduly about going into the Rotterdam derby, although he is quick to point up Sparta’s defensive power. ‘They played very defensively against AZ. They have made things tough for Ajax, PSV and AZ and they certainly have one the better defences of the sides near the bottom. They have lads that know what they can do and play to their strengths. Sparta are good at the back, which is shown by the limited number of goals they’ve conceded. But we have more quality of course. But knowing that is perhaps where the danger lies. We have to perform at half past twelve Sunday.’
 
Diego Biseswar will not be in the Feyenoord squad Sunday. The return of Romeo Castelen and Ali Boussaboun, along with the availability of Pierre van Hooijdonk means there’s actually a surplus of attackers. ‘That’s why he’ll be playing with the A1 team Saturday; a top match against Ajax,’ explains Koeman. ‘That is better for him than not playing at all at the weekend. It is certainly not a demotion for him to play there again; that appears obvious to me. Diego is a new first-year A team player and he’s now had a taste of the big time. Obviously he’ll be hoping to continue to make progress in the first team, but I feel he has to play. If that’s not in the first team then let it be in the A1 team and the reserves. He has to continue making progress as he has been doing.’
 
Sebastián Pardo returns to the bench against Feyenoord’s city neighbours. The Chilean has missed the last few weeks through flue and a foot injury. All told, Maikel Aerts is the only doubt. The reserve keeper has a hip infection and a decision will be taken on his availability on Saturday. If he doesn’t make it Sherif Ekramy will join the squad.
 
 
EREDIVISIE
Feyenoord – Sparta Rotterdam
Sunday 19 February, 12:30 at De Kuip
Referee: Haverkort
 
PROBABLE LINE-UPS
Feyenoord: Lodewijks; Greene, Vlaar, Bahia, Bosschaart; Hofs, Paauwe, De Guzman; Castelen, Kuyt, Kalou.
Sparta: Ponk; Gudelj, Schenkel, Gudde, De Fauw; Polak, Van Bueren, Obodai, Michels; Cvetkov (Bouaouzan), Oost.
 
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