Europa League play-offs: FC Twente – FC Utrecht
FC Twente – FC Utrecht
23th of May 2013, 2045 CET – Venue: Grolsch Veste, Enschede. Referee: R. Wiedemeijer
The final for the last Europa League spot is between the two clubs that deserve to be there: Fifth placed FC Utrecht, who knocked out SC Heerenveen, and sixth placed FC Twente, who were too strong for FC Groningen. For the former, it’s a chance to crown an incredible season, for the latter it’s a chance to salvage something from a year that went terribly wrong after December.
Only one point separated the two in the regular competition but FC Utrecht have the better head-to-head record, drawing 1-1 at home and winning 2-4 away. Both teams are currently in terrific form, with hosts FC Twente unbeaten in ten and FC Utrecht winning six on the spin. One of FC Twente’s newcomers, Dusan Tadic, has faith his team will do the business. ‘We want to make Europe. That is the only goal and that is where our focus will be. FC Utrecht have a strong team and they have performed well this season. We respect them, but we rely on our own strength and our play in the last series of games have added some extra confidence to the team. We’re back on track and we are looking to prove ourselves. The upcoming two games against FC Utrecht are games to look forward to, two real finals.’
The in-form man at FC Utrecht, central midfielder Jens Toornstra, will be looking to show why he was called up for the Dutch national squad for the first time by manager Louis van Gaal. Toornstra was instrumental against SC Heerenveen, scoring two of the three goals over the two games against de Friezen, but retains a sense of perspective. ‘(After the play-off semi finals) I had my feet back on the ground quite fast, I may have scored nice goals, but we haven’t won nothing yet’, he told TV Utrecht. “FC Twente are a very good team that press constantly. We need to find a way to get away from that pressure.’ FC Utrecht manager Jan Wouters has a fit squad – only Cedric Van der Gun is a bit of a doubt but he should fit to play. Swedish midfielder Johan Martensson is suspended and will be replaced by departing midfielder Anouar Kali. The 21-year-old will leave on a free this summer and doesn’t know what his next destination will be. He won’t let that get in the way of concentrating on the end of season finals: ‘ There is some interest, but for now, I will focus on the two final games and then we’ll see what happens.’
FC Twente interim manager Alfred Schreuder has a few doubts. “Some players have some minor muscle complaints as a result of the tough return match against FC Groningen.” Bulgarian goalkeeper Nikolas Mihaylov is ready to take his place between the posts, having been expected to return last week: “He told us today that if we need him, he’s ready.” Belgian playmaker and one of the decisive figures against FC Groningen Nacer Chadli is fit again, after he was kept on the bench for the first hour in FC Twente’s last game. Schreuder is the club’s choice to take over on a permanent basis next season and while qualifying for Europe will do no harm, he does not yet have the required coaching badges.
FC Twente will be looking to gain advantage over FC Utrecht, while FC Utrecht will be looking to set themselves up to finish things off in the Stadion Galgenwaard. With only 180 minutes (and injury time + perhaps extra time and penalties) of Eredivisie football left this season, a thrilling match awaits.