Sunday’s friendly at De Kuip will be Feyenoord’s final dress rehearsal against top-class opposition before the Eredivisie season kicks off in earnest on 15 August. Ruud Gullit is expected to name his strongest side against English outfit Fulham, with the absence of Shinji Ono the only fly in the ointment. The Japanese midfielder has a prior appointment in Athens where his nation will be going for Olympic glory. That means Gullit will be forced to shuffle his midfield pack.

‘The engine-room has to be in place. I can always play around with the rest, but the framework of the team has to be solid,’ says Gullit.

Since his arrival in Rotterdam the new coach has emphasised that defence is the key. ‘But in saying that I’ve tried to make it clear that a good defence starts with the forwards. In the system I see before me defending cannot be left to the defenders alone. We have to learn to defend as a team.’

Gullit has been delighted to see how his squad players have shown their commitment and their value in preseason. ‘But the greatest gain is that in the past few weeks we have acquired the feeling that we do not have to be afraid of anyone. And that is the feeling we have to retain in the league.’

Besides Shinji Ono, Chong-Gug Song and Ramon van Haaren are the two major absentees against Fulham, although Danko Lazovic (calf), Anthony Lurling (knee) and Karim Saidi (ankle) are all highly doubtful.

Friendly Match, Sunday 8 August
Kick-off: 2.30 pm
Venue: De Kuip

Probable Feyenoord team
Babos; Gyan, Loovens, Paauwe, Mtiliga; Smolarek, Ghaly, Bosschaart, Goor;
Buffel and Kuyt.

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Feyenoord Business CLub