READY OR NOT–THE SEASON STARTS HERE

Preseason has been a testing time for Bert van Marwijk, with the loss of five first-choice players and the acquisition of seven newcomers. Lazovic, Kuyt, Jean, Schreuder, Van den Berg, Salomon Kalou and Swerts have all been added to the Feyenoord squad in the summer and there’s been little time for teambuilding. Indeed, the new Eredivisie campaign is already upon us. Sunday sees the Kuip host the season opener when NEC come to Rotterdam.

The preseason games have been a little disappointing, but extenuating circumstances included injuries to vital members of the squad and the tropical climate that has swept most of Europe. But when there are points at stake excuses mean nothing and that will be the case against Nijmegen outfit NEC. It’s something that Van Marwijk is only too aware of. ‘And I am confident. Time is running out but I’m counting on us making up for our poor preseason Sunday. I sense that attitude among the players too. I can point the finger at them for a few of things, but they are certainly willing. This is a team that has had too little time. That’s why I’ve trained and played in the same formation as much as possible. I want to create certainty.’ Recent sessions on the training pitch would point to the coach kicking off the 2003-4 campaign with Edwin Zoetebier in goal and a defence made up of Chong-Gug Song, Peter van den Berg, Patrick Paauwe and Gérard de Nooijer. The only doubt lies with the Korean, whose mouth has gotten him into a spot of bother with Van Marwijk. ‘At Portsmouth I got very angry with Song, due to his lack of communication. I spoke with him about it at length. I just expect more from him. He has to make his presence felt on the pitch and coach the others in Dutch. I want to hear you, I told him, and it is time you started speaking Dutch. It’s got better the past few weeks, although I am patient with him, because all the things he’s been confronted with this past year mean he isn’t at ease.’ It’s expected that Kees van Wonderen will hook up with new boy Alfred Schreuder in midfield to form the engine room, while the offensive options are fourfold with Kuyt, Van Persie, Lazovic and Buffel all likely to grab a goal. ‘But if we are under par that variation in attack can work against us,’ warned the coach. ‘There’s a lot of movement, all four enjoy working like that. But sometimes you have to revert to a set formation. A guy like Lazovic wasn’t used to facing opponents around the halfway line in Serbia. He takes too many risks there and occasionally loses possession. That’s unacceptable now, but he’s an intelligent lad and he learns fast.’ The lack of routine can be compensated by commitment, realises Van Marwijk ‘I know that they want to set the record straight on Sunday. And if we win a couple of games we’ll take some major steps in our development.’ FEYENOORD-NEC Sunday 17 August, 2.30 pm Referee: Jack van Hulten Expected elevens FEYENOORD Zoetebier; Song, Van den Berg, Paauwe, De Nooijer; Van Wonderen en Schreuder; Kuyt, Lazovic, Buffel, Van Persie Unavailable: Ono (bruised bone), Kalou (muscle strain), Jean (foot), Gyan (stomach), Leonardo (back), Van Haaren (knee), Collen (ankle) NEC Gentenaar; Wisgerhof, Wielaert, Ebbinge, Leiwakabessy; Schuurman, Govedarica, Hersi, Zonneveld; Dennis de Nooijer, Demouge (De Freitas) Unavailable: Simr (suspended) Doubtful: De Freitas (knee) Five-year form guide HOME: 18/8/2002 Feyenoord-NEC 2 - 0 9/12/2001 Feyenoord-NEC 5 - 0 21/4/2001 Feyenoord-NEC 3 - 0 24/10/1999 Feyenoord-NEC 2 - 1 6/12/1998 Feyenoord-NEC 1 - 0 AWAY: 16/3/2003 NEC-Feyenoord 1 - 2 8/9/2001 NEC-Feyenoord 0 - 3 25/1/2001 NEC-Feyenoord 1 - 2 (Amstel Cup) 19/11/2000 NEC-Feyenoord 1 - 3 7/5/2000 NEC-Feyenoord 0 - 2
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