Sunday September 24 2017
Exclusive: Feyenoord guide for Napoli

Napoli continue their Champions League campaign against Feyenoord, so asked expert Mark Lievisse Adriaanse what to expect.

The Dutch side are back in Europe’s biggest competition after winning the Eredivisie title for the first time in 18 years.

We contacted the co-author of a book on the historic achievement, ‘Feyenoord Onvergetelijk’, to prep Partenopei fans on this important match on Tuesday.

What kind of form are Feyenoord in at the moment and how are they feeling going into the Stadio San Paolo?

Feyenoord isn't in the greatest form. The defeat against Manchester City was expected, but the loss against PSV was unnecessary, although Feyenoord played a great second half. Last week, Feyenoord beat ADO Den Haag 2-0 in the Dutch Cup, but the performance wasn't great.

Feyenoord is missing one of its most important players – striker Nicolai Jorgensen – and his replacement Michiel Kramer is anything but his equal. With Kramer up front, Feyenoord can hardly play the position-based football they want to play. On the other hand: Feyenoord are on top of the Eredivisie and have had a pretty easy start of the season.

There are reports hundreds of fans are making the trip to Naples despite the ban on away supporters. Considering their history in the Roma game, where Dutch visitors damaged a priceless fountain, is there the potential for trouble?

Yes, I think there is a potential for trouble, and the decision by local authorities is very unwise. Many fans will travel to Naples either way. Having them inside the stadium during the game seems like a better solution to me than having them stroll through the city, which has a much bigger risk.

Fans will have a drink and chant Feyenoord songs, and if the police in Naples have the same strategy and mentality as in Rome - i.e. unnecessarily aggressive - I think there could be trouble. It would be much safer to have these fans inside the stadium than in the city.

What idea of Napoli do they have in Holland?

Napoli is highly rated. Many people watch Italian football and while Juventus is of course seen as the strongest team, I think that Napoli are generally rated as the second-strongest team in Italy. Of course, Dries Mertens is still very familiar with Dutch people.

Being in such a tough group with Napoli, Manchester City and Shakhtar Donetsk, what are Feyenoord's expectations in the Champions League this season, or are they happy just to be there?

There are very low expectations. At best, Feyenoord can reach the third spot and get into the Europa League. The divide between the top of Europe and the top of Dutch football is too big to expect anything better. Feyenoord have an annual budget of around €60m, and its starting XI against Manchester City cost roughly €20m. Just one City substitute was more expensive.

It's just a whole other financial and sportive level, one against which Feyenoord can't compete. Reaching the Champions League was historic: it was the first time in 15 years. So yeah, I'd say that Feyenoord are happy to be here, but are also very much aware it is a league where Feyenoord (or any other Dutch club, really) have little chances.

Feyenoord are not the traditional title winners, but they upset the odds. Napoli are hoping to do the same. Can there be parallels?

Maybe, to some extent. Feyenoord are a historical giant and after years of financial troubles, are slowly getting back to the top of Dutch football on a structural level. 

Who should Napoli most be worried about facing in the Feyenoord squad?

Probably Karim El Ahmadi and Tonny Vilhena, the two centre midfielders. They are tough, quick, modern midfielders with a great capability to put pressure on players and win possession.

On the other hand: that's what they do in the Eredivisie, and the Champions League has just a much higher pace of which I am unsure they can provide the same football. 

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