It’ll be past midnight Dutch time by the time the referee blows time in Portugal tonight when Feyenoord meet Sporting Clube de Portugal in the Uefa Cup, but it’ll be well worth staying up for, according to coach Ruud Gullit, ‘because it’s two teams against each other that are focused on scoring goals. The Feyenoord coach does feel that the home side are favourites, however. That said, an away goal would go a long way to transforming the Rotterdammers into top dog ahead of the second leg in eight days’ time.

Feyenoord go into the game as underdogs and Gullit is hoping that will lift the expectations on his side enough to come away from Lisbon with something to work with. The Feyenoord coach is certainly looking for at least a goal. ‘That’s very important with an eye to the return,’ confirmed Gullit. The two sides met in preseason, but the coach is not taking too much from that game. ‘The interests are greater on Wednesday. Sporting have a very strong team with two fantastic strikers. I’ve noticed how easily Sá Pinto is scoring great goals. Sporting are a technical team with a lot of talented players. You see the pleasure in their game and we will have to be very concentrated when defending.’

The defence welcomes back Gianni Zuiverloon on the right, due to the absence of Alexander Östlund, who’s cup tied after starting for Hammarby earlier in the season. Otherwise Gullit may well stick with the players who found the net seven times against Willem II. ‘It’s possible that the same team will play as Sunday, although I’m not saying that’s the case.’ Patrick Paauwe is likely to start in midfield, while Danko Lazovic looks like getting the nod ahead of Salomon Kalou. The young Serb has shown great maturity in recent performances, setting up Dirk Kuyt for a number of goals when his strike partner had a better chance of scoring.

There is a question mark over the keeper’s jersey. Gábor Babos has regained the number one spot since the winter break, but was forced out of the eleven Sunday with a head wound and Patrick Lodewijks kept a clean sheet, pulling off one wonderful save in particular. Gullit wasn’t expressing a preference, but it may well be that Babos pays dearly for the unforced error he made against De Graafschap.

Sporting Lisbon–Feyenoord
22.15 pm, Wednesday 16 February at Estadio José Alvalade
Referee: Messner (Austria)
Probable line-ups
Sporting Lissabon: Ricardo; Rogério, Beto, Polga, Paíto; Carlos Martins, Custódio, Rochemback, Hugo Viana; Sá Pinto, Liedson

Feyenoord: Lodewijks (Babos); Zuiverloon, Saidi, Gibbs, Basto; Castelen, Paauwe, Hofs, Goor; Kuyt, Lazovic.

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