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The stakes are high Thursday when Feyenoord and Sporting Lisbon face off at De Kuip. And history teaches us that high stakes don’t always result in exciting displays on the pitch. So while we might be in for an exciting night, Ruud Gullit for one feels we may not see a footballing classic. ‘Rather than an open match I expect a game with two calculated teams. No goals against is sacred for us and of course we have to score.’
‘By all means necessary’ appears to be motto ahead of Feyenoord’s biggest game of the season thus far. Gullit has admitted that he doesn’t really want to waste time trying to defend himself from Sporting striker Liedson’s perchance for tumbling to the deck at every opportunity to try and gain an unfair advantage. ‘We know he’s going to do it. Just like we knew last week,’ Gullit explained. ‘We solved it reasonably well then in my opinion. What Liedson does is part of the game. I can go to the edge of the permissible and the referee decides where that is. I’m not holier than thou in that and I don’t have a problem with it. Neither will I be approaching the referee in advance to draw his attention to it. It just has the adverse effect. You know it’s there. I think you have to accept and anticipate it.’
The Rotterdammers will not only have Liedsen’s wobbly legs to anticipate; Rochemback and Sa Pinto will also cause problems. ‘It’s very important to keep them as far away from our penalty area as possible, because they are technically highly skilled players.’
Gullit will probably go into the match relying on the same eleven that started in Lisbon. Injuries mean that there’s little room for shuffling the pack in any event. ‘In terms of personnel and injuries that’d be tough. I’d rather surprise people during the match with a substitution or a tactical intervention. The opponents are then oriented to the old situation and that can deliver results.’
The only real question mark comes up front, where Danko Lazovic and Salomon Kalou are both hoping to get the nod to partner Dirk Kuyt. The Serb didn’t get on the score sheet against FC Utrecht, but got plenty of compliments for his huge appetite for hard work. That would tend to give him the edge over his Ivorian team-mate, but Kalou’s movement could cause problems for a sometimes nervy Portuguese defence.
UEFA CUP ROUND OF THE LAST 32, SECOND LEG
Feyenoord—Sporting Lisbon (first leg 1-2)
8:45 pm, Thursday 24 February at De Kuip
Referee: Meyer (Germany)
Feyenoord: Lodewijks; Zuiverloon, Saidi, Gibbs, Basto; Castelen, Paauwe, Hofs, Goor; Kuyt, Lazovic.
Sporting Lisbon: Ricardo; Enakarhire, Rui Jorge, Douala, Rogerio, Paito; Rochemback, Hugo Viana, Carlos Martins; Liedson, Sá Pinto.