Shinji Ono returns to the starting team for the first time in ten weeks Wednesday when Feyenoord take on NAC in the quarterfinal of the Amstel Cup at De Kuip. Ono has been the main subject of the press call ahead of the tie. He was linked with a move away from Rotterdam in the TV show Voetbal Insite, while nothing could be further from the truth and Feyenoord have emphatically denied any such agenda.

The real news is his return to the first team. The player had surgery on his ankle during the winter break and came off the bench to score last week. ‘Ono is in good form,’ asserted Gullit. ‘ I have given him a few minutes in recent games and there’s a big chance now that he’ll start. Since his injury he looks fit, but that can often go the other way. In that case he’ll play safe whereas he’s there precisely to find an opening. That’s his strength. He had his best games before the winter break when he came on as substitute. Against Willem II and Schalke 04, for example. That said something about his fitness. He has now been operated on and he appears to be back. I am very hopeful that he will be fit to play the whole game. He has a lot going for him. Sometimes I’d like to see more from him because of that. That’s not a criticism but a compliment that I see that in him. But I don’t want to put extra pressure on him.’

Gullit is hoping Ono can add some extra spice to the midfield against NAC. The UEFA Cup elimination and the huge gap with PSV in the league means the Amstel Cup is arguably Feyenoord’s last chance of making something of the season. The coach doesn’t agree. ‘NAC only has the cup to win, so we have to be alert. We have the cup and the league. I don’t believe we can get first place but we have to try to finish as high as possible. The top clubs still have to play each other. Strange things can happen. But we aren’t putting everything on the cup; the league is just as important.’

Feyenoord went into training camp Wednesday with twenty players, including Leonardo, Sebastián Pardo, André Bahia and Alexander Östlund, all of whom missed last week’s European fixture. Hossam Ghaly, Christian Gyan, Pascal Bosschaart and Patrick Mtiliga are unavailable through injury.

Amstel Cup Quarterfinal
Feyenoord – NAC Breda
Thursday 3 March, 20:45 at De Kuip
Referee: Temmink

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