AUGUST OCCASION AS KOEMAN FACES AJAX FOR FIRST TIME

Feyenoord have been training behind closed doors in the days leading up to Sunday’s match in Amsterdam. The coach denies that there’s anything afoot however. ‘We wanted to train hassle-free on the main pitch, without spectators. You shouldn’t try to find anything else in it. Neither do I think that the two sides can surprise each other. I know what I can expect from Ajax and the opposite will be true too. We have few secrets from each other.’

As far as personnel goes, the side almost picks itself, although Koeman
continues to keep a place free for Alfred Schreuder. The midfielder has
a sore calf due to an Achilles problem, but is working hard to get fit
for the match. He had an MRI scan Friday, which was expected to shed
light on the player’s physical condition. Koeman will take the results
of the scan into account when he makes his final decision at the end of
training Saturday. ‘At this moment I don’t consider Alfred’s chance of
playing to be high,’ says the coach, ‘but we’ll continue to do
everything to get him fit in time.’

It’ll be former Koeman’s first Ajax-Feyenoord match, although the
former PSV and Holland man has experienced his fair share of big games.
‘Of course I notice there’s a certain tension in the build-up to this
match,’ says the coach, ‘although I’m bound to say that we’ve had a
relatively calm week. I’m not itching myself yet, but I do notice that
the players feel there’s a lot of prestige at stake on Sunday. That’s
only good.’

It’s still early in the season and it’s unclear whether Feyenoord are
ready for a confrontation with their archrivals. ‘We’ll have to see,’
says Koeman. ‘But ready or not, we’ll have to be up for it on Sunday.
It’s our first really serious test case. That actually also went for
the game against NAC, but when you talk about Ajax, you’re talking
about a high level of quality.’

When Koeman compares and contrasts the two sides he finds that Ajax are
more comfortable on the ball than his own team. ‘They are more composed
than we are, play better in possession than Feyenoord do. I’ve also
told the team that Ajax have a couple of players that can get away from
their direct opponent easily. Sneijder is one of those players. It’s up
to us to respond well to that. If we do that then there’ll certainly be
chances, because a lot of our strength is in attack.’

Koeman is not interested in getting involved in a discussion on who
goes into Sunday’s game as the favourite. ‘It doesn’t mean anything to
me. For outsiders it’s maybe a nice subject for discussion, but it
doesn’t interest me. If Ajax want to make us favourites that’s great,
but it won’t change my attitude to the game. We have to go for it on
Sunday, favourite or not.’

EREDIVISIE
Ajax – Feyenoord
Sunday 28 August, 12:30 at the Arena
Referee: Van Egmond

EXPECTED TEAMS
Feyenoord: Lodewijks; Östlund, Greene, Bahia, Snoyl; Ghaly, Paauwe
(Schreuder), Pardo; Boussaboun, Kuyt, Kalou.
Ajax: Vonk; Trabelsi, Escudé, Grygera, Emanuelson; De Jong, Maduro,
Sneijder; Pienaar, Rosenberg, Babel.

LAST TEN LEAGUE MEETINGS

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