Dutch coach in Ukraine on Feyenoord opponent: ‘Youth keeps Shachtar afloat’
Follows Feyenoord on behalf of NOS Sport
Follows Feyenoord on behalf of NOS Sport
Headache, trainer Igor Jovićević will have while making Shachtar Donetsk’s lineup for the Europa League match with Feyenoord. The Croatian is missing almost his entire defense due to suspensions and injuries. “That makes it difficult to predict how Shachtar will play,” Patrick van Leeuwen said.
Van Leeuwen knows Sjachtar well. Not only does the coach follow the club as an opponent of his Ukrainian team Zorya Luhansk, he also worked in Shachtar’s youth training from 2006 to 2013. In the years before that, he worked at Feyenoord. He is therefore following the confrontation between his two former employers with extra interest.
“After I stopped playing at Helmond Sport, I started working in Feyenoord’s youth training program,” Van Leeuwen says. “Then at Sjachtar I became assistant to Henk van Stee, who was head of youth training. When Henk went back to Holland, I continued that process in training.”
Good youth training
“Both clubs are comparable to each other, though, because they start from a good youth training. Initially, Shachtar brought in a lot of foreign players, but they have also been working to establish a good youth training program. And that is what keeps them afloat in the war situation, now that many foreign players have left.”
Youth training more important than ever at Ukrainian Feyenoord opponent
Van Leeuwen: “Most foreign players, especially Brazilians, took advantage of the opportunity to temporarily set up their contracts. More players then came from the youth academy. This gives them a chance to play regularly in the league. This is how things are going at the moment at many clubs in Ukraine.”
That development is not harming Shachtar in the league. The team is shared first, followed on eight loss points by Van Leeuwen’s Zorja. “But the departure of the foreign players obviously has an impact. Although the Ukrainian players do have fighting spirit, they take strength from the current situation and go to extremes to win.”
A realistic Shachtar
Against Feyenoord, Shachtar must do without suspended defenders Juchym Konoplja, Valeriy Bondar and Bohdan Mychajlychenko, among others. Add to that a number of injuries and the pool becomes very thin, especially in the back line. “The three suspended defenders are all good players. They cannot be replaced immediately with players of a similar level.”
“The team actually has two deployable defenders left. Therefore, I expect a realistic Shachtar,” Van Leeuwen said. “With so many absentees, I expect them to play more compactly. But precisely because of the large number of absentees, it is difficult to predict how the team will play. Maybe Jovićević will suddenly choose five men at the back just now.”
“Normally Shachtar always play in the same style. They assume possession of the ball with many changes of position. The attack is the basis. Although because of the many players who have left, they have started to play a little more conservatively than before. Sometimes they suddenly surprise opponents with counters. Although that was mainly before the sale of Moedryk, one of the faster players.”
Former Ajacied Traoré commands respect
Moedryk is Mychajlo Moedryk, the 22-year-old star player who left for Chelsea this winter for 100 million euros. That left even less quality. “Captain and midfielder Taras Stepanenko is now the most important player. He organizes the team. In addition, they have a number of talented midfielders,” Van Leeuwen said.
Former Ajacied Lassina Traoré is also still part of the squad. The striker from Burkina Faso commanded a lot of respect from supporters by being one of the few foreign players to stay with Shachtar. However, he is not yet at his old level after a serious knee injury, although according to Van Leeuwen he is becoming “increasingly mobile and important for the team.”
Shachtar just finished a long winter break and then won 4-1 at FK Mynaj and 7-0 at Metalist 1925 Kharkov in the league. “Feyenoord is probably in a somewhat better rhythm because of that,” Van Leeuwen expected.
“I think that’s why Feyenoord has more chances in the first game than in the second. Also because of all the absentees at Sjachtar. For them, the result in the first game will be most important.”