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Europa League Q&A With Lisanne Hoekstra of Feyenoord International

We turned to a Feyenoord fanatic to get the lowdown on Roma’s next Europa League opponent.

Feyenoord v AFC Ajax - Dutch KNVB Beker Photo by NESimages/Geert van Erven/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

The beauty of European football is getting to see the Giallorossi take on some of the best teams around the European continent. Teams that Roma doesn’t get to play very often. It’s a great way to test Roma’s credentials and mettle outside of Serie A. However, it also presents an air of unfamiliarity when prepping for a match.

I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t watched a minute of the Eredivisie all season long. And even though Roma defeated Feyenoord just under 11 months ago in the Conference League final, a lot has changed in Rotterdam since then.

There’s been plenty of personnel changes en route to De club aan de Maas shifting the power balance in this season’s Eredivisie. So, we turned to a Feyenoord expert to get the 411 on all things Feyenoord ahead of Thursday’s Europa League quarterfinal in Holland.

Lisanne Hoekstra, who runs the Twitter account Feyenoord International, was kind enough to answer some questions to help us prep for what should be an entertaining affair.

It’s not every season that Ajax finds itself trailing in the table at this point in the season, so how has Feyenoord managed to lead the Eredivisie through 28 match days? How would you describe Feyenoord’s style of play? What makes the side click?

I would say us doing so well is a combination of different factors. Feyenoord plays attractive offensive high-tempo football, they’re really fit and they always keep going. There’s been a lot of games this season where we’ve managed to come back after being behind. There’s a real fighting spirit in this team, they will not give up before that final whistle is blown. This season watching a Feyenoord game, you just know it’s not over until the very end even if they are trailing 2-0 - or more. This team works very hard and almost feels like a family, I think that is also a big part of our success this year. Not to forget our incredible trainer Arne Slot - and his staff, somehow he manages to get the best out of every player.

With Feyenoord having so much success in the league, Europa League, and KNVB, are you at all worried that the squad could be stretched too thin? If so, where would the supporters like the club put the most focus?

Not really. We’ve seen quite a few injuries this season and that worried a lot of supporters, but each time we’ve been in a situation like that other players have stepped up. So I feel like those worries have kind of disappeared now. Feyenoord is also really focussing on the fitness of the players, especially with playing so many games. But at this point playing two times a week has become a habit for most of the players and they seem to not be having any problems with the busy schedule.

These two sides met in the UEFA Conference League final last season, has this side changed much since that match? If so, in what ways?

Yes, Feyenoord has definitely changed much since then. Because of last year’s European success the interest in Feyenoord players has risen incredibly. Last Summer a lot of players left the club, breaking transfer records. If you look at the starting eleven from last year’s Conference League final only 4 players remain.

So Feyenoord had to start from scratch again and build a completely new team, over the Summer we welcomed 15! new players. What hasn’t changed is the trainer - Arne Slot - and his playing style.

This Feyenoord side put up seven goals in the round of 16 against Shakhtar Donetsk. Roma likes to play Mourinho’s defensively sound football. Are you expecting this to be a clash of styles? Do you see it being tight like last season’s 1-0 UECL final, or will we see more goals this time around?

I definitely hope to see more goals this time around. But I for sure expect a clash of styles. It’s not easy to play a very defensive side like Roma. I think it is key for Feyenoord not to get behind like we did in the Conference League final. Once Roma scores that first goal it will be even harder to play through their defense. So Feyenoord needs to stay focused and not give anything away. It’s also a little different now because it’s not a final and it’s played over two matches. I feel like that gives Feyenoord more of a chance against Roma’s defending. Especially being able to play in our own stadium. I would be surprised if these matches are only good for a single goal, but I also don’t expect loads of goals all of a sudden.

Give us the lowdown on Feyenoord’s personnel. Which players will be key to Feyenoord finding success against Roma?

I find this one hard to answer. Feyenoord really is a team this season. They truly do it together and even the substitutes have played a big roll in Feyenoord’s success this season. There’s not really one shining star in the squad, it’s a team effort and almost every single player has scored this season. But if I’d had to name names I would go for our captain Orkun Kökcü, who has been amazing in the midfield - also one of the few players who played the Conference League final. I’d also like to mention Santiago Giménez, our new striker from Mexico who has been on fire the past couple of weeks.

Conversely, what worries you the most about Roma? Where can the Giallorossi give Feyenoord issues?

To be honest, I personally haven’t seen a single Roma match this season so I don’t really know where their strengths are - aside from the obvious; their defensive skills. I do think these matches have the potential to get quite intense, there’s a strong rivalry on and off the pitch so we’re in for two very heated nights. I feel like both Roma and Feyenoord have the ability to win and progress, it will be interesting to see which way it’ll go.