‘The confidence is back,’ said a satisfied Feyenoord head coach Giovanni van Bronckhorst on Friday afternoon, two days ...
Normally Feyenoord would go into Sunday’s Eredivisie match at De Kuip against FC Groningen as hot favourites. But while the visitors trail the Maassiders by eleven points, the absence of three regulars has weakened Ruud Gullit’s hand somewhat. Song and Boschaart serve out their three-match bans, and Shinji Ono will probably join them in the stands due to injury. Gullit will also be uneasy about the mileage some of his players have again had to put in during the week. ‘We won’t stroll to a win in this,’ warns the coach.<BR>
Gullit admits that Shinji Ono is unlikely to play a part against the northerners. A minor ankle injury left the Japanese short all week. His absence is compounded by that of fellow midfielder Pascal Bosschaart, whose suspension keeps him out also.
The coach was his usual non-cooperative self when asked about how he would be solving that particular centrefield conundrum. ‘You’ll see on Sunday,’ was all Gulllit would say. The most likely option is the inclusion of Thomas Buffel in place of Ono. The team will be otherwise unchanged from the one that fought for a point in Amsterdam last week. Romeo Castelen had an off day against Ajax, but he is unlikely to lose his starting jersey. Salomon Kalou has also been out of sorts, but Gullit is taking it all in his stride. The duo made an explosive start to the season, but have gone off the boil recently. ‘What they did was really unbelievable. I cannot expect them to play like that all season. There are lots of reasons. The opponent is more aware of you, for instance. You saw that last week with Maxwell, who didn’t dare get forward. Castelen and Kalou now have to be valuable for the team even when they don’t excel. I’m seeing them getting to that stage now.’
Gullit also seemed to confirm that Patrick Mtiliga would retain his place too, which means that Bruno Basto will be on the subs bench again. ‘I think that Mtiliga has done well. Against Ferencvaros and NAC he was excellent and I was satisfied against Ajax as well. He played opposite an in-form Rosales, who never really got past him a single time. I’m not counting the one situation for which Mtiliga wasn’t to blame. Patrick is there when he has to be.’
The international fixture list meant that the coach had to wait until Friday before he had his full squad back in training. Gullit will be relieved that Kuyt, Castelen, Song, Loovens, Lazovic and Buffel all returned from national duty unharmed, although the effect of tiredness is still difficult to gauge.
Holland Casino Eredivisie
FEYENOORD – FC GRONINGEN
Sunday 21 November
Feyenoord: Babos; Gyan, Saidi, Paauwe, Mtiliga; Castelen, Buffel,
Ghaly, Goor; Kuyt, Kalou.
FC Groningen: Roorda; Elshot, Kruiswijk, Van Gessel, Florèn; Matthijs,
Krstev, Hugo, Seedorf; Salmon, Nevland.
LAST TEN ENCOUNTERS
2/5/2004 Feyenoord - FC Groningen 1-2
23/2/2003 Feyenoord - FC Groningen 4-1
14/10/2001 Feyenoord - FC Groningen 1-0
11/2/2001 Feyenoord - FC Groningen 1-0
1/4/1998 Feyenoord - FC Groningen 3-0
2/11/2003 FC Groningen - Feyenoord 3-3
3/11/2002 FC Groningen - Feyenoord 0-2
10/2/2002 FC Groningen - Feyenoord 0-1
17/12/2000 FC Groningen - Feyenoord 1-0
28/09/1997 FC Groningen - Feyenoord 2-0