Europa League play-offs: SC Heerenveen – FC Utrecht

SC Heerenveen – FC Utrecht
16th of May, 20:45 CET – Venue: Abe Lenstra Stadion – Referee: Kevin Blom

As noted earlier in the review of round 34 of Eredivisie, Heerenveen-manager Marco van Basten was fuming after the game against Roda JC. ‘We were uninspired, this was a justified defeat. If you play like we did today, you deserve to lose,’ he told de Volkskrant.’We’ve lost three on the trot now and still we make the play offs.  It’s a miracle and you can ask yourself whether it is deserved or not. If we keep playing like this, we don’t belong in the play-offs.’

It’s not hard to see why Marco Van Basten was so pessimistic. Heerenveen’s recent form has been shambolic and with Serbian starlet and playmaker Filip Djuricic, midfield general Sven Kums and, although of less importance, experienced defender Arnold Kruiswijk all injured Heerenveen have some problems to cope with. The 21 point gap between the two after the regular competition hardly inspires as well. The last meeting between the two, only eleven days ago, ended in 2-4 victory for the Utrechters and they will be eager to set up a same type of scoreline in the Abe Lenstra stadion.

Jan Wouters has seen his men win for on the trot now, illustrating that the 6-0 loss against AZ was just a freak result. As for the most unfortunate figure on the pitch that day, Mike van der Hoorn: he has recovered brilliantly. Back then, he gained world fame for one of the silliest own goals of the season, a harsh treatment of the talented defender. It’s no coincidence that the youngster (20) has already been called up for the Dutch national team and that is one hell of an achievement considering the array of talent national manager Louis van Gaal has at his disposal. Van der Hoorn is a very mature defender, good with the ball at his feet, a player with vision and he has illustrated that by delivering some assists as well, mainly due to his superb right foot long distance delivery.

Toornstra about to score.

Toornstra about to score.

Box-to-box midfielder Jens Toornstra has been a sensation ever since he was brought in from ADO Den Haag from January and as he is accompanied by another excellent midfielder, the departing Anouar Kali (he’ll be leaving on a free). With striker Jacob Mulenga having his best season ever, with 14 goals in 28 matches, and goalkeeper Robbin Ruiter has been one of the best goalkeepers in the league after his move from FC Volendam last summer.  Manager Wouters is combative ahead of the games versus Heerenveen: ‘All other games don’t count anymore, we have to reward ourselves for a marvellous season – we’ll be approaching the play-offs as if they’re European games’.

SC Heerenveen will be hoping they can get the crowd behind them against the number five of the regular season. And they have some players out there who might. Kristof Nordtfeldt has had a good season between the posts, Jeffrey Gouweleeuw is a major defensive talent and the attack consisting of wingers Belgian Yassine El Ghanassy (on loan from West Bromwich Albion) and Rajiv Van La Parra assisting the ever scoring Alfred Finnbogason is rather potent. They are underdogs though, a role which Van Basten likes. ‘It’s a role in which we prosper – we have a chance to progress, that feeling is shared by the players.’

Both are hungry for European football, a battle can be expected.

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