The last game before this season’s short winter break sees a struggling Willem II visit Thursday. The Tilburg outfit find themselves second from bottom with just two wins, so it’s vital that the Rotterdammers don’t take their eye off the ball if they are to keep up with the top two going into the second half of the campaign, Erwin Koeman admits that home advantage should play in his side’s favour. ‘We have a consistent home balance sheet and a changeable away balance sheet.’

The difference the venue has made has been striking this season. Feyenoord look unbeatable at De Kuip, where both PSV and AZ have succumbed. Away from De Kuip it’s a different matter however, as points have been dropped at FC Utrecht, RKC Waalwijk, ADO Den Haag and RBC Roosendaal, while there was a cup exit at Roda JC. Koeman is relatively clear in his own mind why that home form has been so good, culminating in last weekend’s defeat of AZ. ‘The attendance of 45,000 people was impressive. AZ need eight home games to get that number of people to the stadium. AZ fell behind early and that does something to you as a footballer. Despite AZ’s good sequence, the crowd can then work against you. We had the crowd behind us and that certainly helped us.’ The coach is less sure why his side are having so much trouble elsewhere however. ‘It’s hard to say. It especially has to do with moments of carelessness that are penalised. We saw that against RBC, where we were two down within a short space of time. And there was Bosschaart’s handball against ADO. They are expensive mistakes.’

Despite two successive defeats Feyenoord looked calm and composed against AZ Sunday. ‘I felt that was good by the players,’ admits Koeman. ‘They did not hang around the goal and they were certainly not afraid to be on the ball. The mental resistance of the team looks good. In that respect the team is there. It is now a matter of playing against the relatively smaller clubs in the same way we did last Sunday. I see a great many positive things, but also many points that can be improved by us if we are get in among the top two over the longer term.’

Koeman will most likely have to take on the Tilburg outfit without Hossam Ghaly. The Egyptian has a groin strain and no decision will be taken on his inclusion until the day of the match. If he doesn’t make it, Koeman looks like giving Shinji Ono a start for the first time since the Japanese returned to fitness. The coach has also brought Ferne Snoyl back into the squad, following two matches on the sidelines.

Feyenoord – Willem II
Thursday 29 December, 20:00 at De Kuip

Referee: Van Sichem

Feyenoord: Lodewijks; Östlund, Greene, Bahia, Bosschaart; Ghaly (Ono), Paauwe, De Guzman; Boussaboun, Kuyt, Kalou.

Willem II: Zois; Delanoy, Smit, Van Nieuwstadt, Van der Haar; Fehér, Reuser, Agustien, Ceesay; Hadouir, Kerekes.

13/2/2005 Feyenoord - Willem II 7-0
26/10/2003 Feyenoord - Willem II 2-1
26/10/2002 Feyenoord - Willem II 5-1
25/11/2001 Feyenoord - Willem II 3-1
26/11/2000 Feyenoord - Willem II 1-0

30/10/2005 Willem II - Feyenoord 1-3
22/8/2004 Willem II - Feyenoord 0-4
29/2/2004 Willem II - Feyenoord 0-3
25/5/2003 Willem II - Feyenoord 1-1
5/5/2002 Willem II - Feyenoord 0-0

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