SNOW AND PAIN AHEAD OF WILLEM II

Feyenoord will be looking for their first win in Tilburg for eight years when the Rotterdammers take on Willem II Sunday. The white blanket currently covering much of the Netherlands doesn’t make a tough fixture any easier, and neither do the key absentees that Bert van Marwijk will have to do without at the aptly named Willem II Stadium as Feyenoord hunt down their first away win since four weeks and a day ago at NEC Nijmegen.

Friday brought new problems for the coach. Kees van Wonderen was already more or less ruled out, but the loss of Shinji Ono was a great surprise. The Japanese was expected to return after weeks on the sidelines, but recurring groin trouble put a block on that. ‘Ono is not viable,’ admitted the coach. ‘He cannot train so he cannot play Sunday.’ There’s a high probability that Patrick Mtiliga will be part of the match-day squad. Indeed the left back is expected to start against Willem II, only a week after arriving from Excelsior. ‘His arrival is basically an emergency intervention,’ admitted Van Marwijk. ‘All four left backs are unavailable for a long time so we had to do something. We actually thought of Mtiliga immediately, given the circumstances. A foreigner could cause communication problems. It’s true that Mtiliga is a Dane, but he speaks fluent Dutch. A real big name doesn’t have to speak the language immediately, but we don’t have the finances to buy someone like that.’ But Van Marwijk is very content with Mtiliga. ‘Patrick is a good lad. He is fast and he knows how we play in the Netherlands. He’s not a genuine left back, it’s true, but Ajax and PSV have a midfielder in that position too.’ The coach has spent the week getting the newcomer used to Feyenoord’s style of play. ‘He couldn’t take part in our game against the reserves last week, unfortunately. But I have had them play a lot of games between themselves this week. That allowed Patrick to get used to our game. It wasn’t so easy, because until yesterday I only had ten fit players at training.’ Fortunately, the list of absentees has recently shrunk with Thomas Buffel, Robin van Persie, Patrick Lodewijks and Alfred Schreuder all back from injury and ready to play. The race for Europe will begin to kick in these next few weeks, so Feyenoord need all the points they can get. ‘The first and second positions are no longer realistic,’ posited the coach. ‘For us the essential thing is to end as high as possible this season to secure European football.’ HOLLAND CASINO EREDIVISIE, SUNDAY 29 FEBRUARY 2004 WILLEM II-FEYENOORD Kick-off: 2.30 pm Venue: Willem II Stadium Probable Feyenoord team: Lodewijks; Song, Paauwe, Van den Berg, Mtiliga; Smolarek, Pardo, Schreuder, Van Persie; Buffel, Kuyt.
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