Europa League Play-offs preview: FC Utrecht – FC Twente
Utrecht will be confident of seeing out the job in the second-leg of the Europa League playoff final against Twente on Sunday as they take to the field in their stadium with a considerable advantage following Thursday’s 2-0 win in Enschede.
Despite Utrecht’s comfortable lead and two away goals in, the tie is still to be fought and Twente coach Alfred Schreuder insists the Tukkers can recover from their deficit and book a place in the Europa League qualifiers next season. Schreuder’s charges recovered from a two goal deficit in their own stadium in the second leg of their semi-final tie with Groningen to set up their tie with Utrecht and they will feel they can do so once again to see off the challenge of Jan Wouters’ side. “There is always a chance,” says coach Schreuder. “Utrecht are less defensive when they are at home, which means we will get more space. We must take advantage of that.”
Utrecht coach Wouters was delighted to see his team pick up a win in the first-leg, which he says is the most important thing, but has been disappointed in recent matches that his team haven’t played well enough. A more expansive Utrecht in their home ground will make for a more entertaining match and will allow Twente to break forward and create more chances as they look to claw their way back into this tie as they did when in danger of crashing out to Groningen. This time, however, the task is much greater. Utrecht are by far a stronger team than Groningen and, having finished the season in fifth place and in fine form, are deserving of winning the play-off tie. But although Twente have to play catch up, they won’t be deterred as they have a team capable of fighting back and making it difficult for their opponents. Leroy Fer, Dusan Tadic, Nacer Chadli, Luc Castaignos and Felipe Gutierrez combine to make Twente a highly potent side which has the potential to be more entertaining and effective than they have shown throughout the season. The Enschede club improved a lot towards the end of the regular campaign and their comeback against Groningen in the previous play-off match was impressive, while Utrecht have now won each of their last seven matches.
Twente captain Fer believes his team need to take a simple approach when it comes to the game in the Galgenwaard. “Just go all or nothing in the away game,” said the 23-year-old and his approach makes sense. Overall it has been a disappointing season for Twente as it began with so much promise and potential before a rough patch in the middle saw them slip down the table and lead to coach Steve McClaren departing. They have since recovered and are playing more attractive, efficient football as the season draws to a close. It would be considered a huge disappointment if they were to end the season without European football when you consider how bright it looked in the beginning (six wins in their first six matches), but Utrecht have generally been a more consistent side throughout the 2012-13 term and the improvement they have made upon last season has been startling.
This final clash is one of two teams who deserve to have progressed to this stage, but Utrecht have the upper-hand as they look to secure European football for next season. These sides were separated by just one point in the final Eredivisie table, it might be one goal which makes the difference between them this time around.