Sporting Clube de Portugal are riding the crest of a wave going into their UEFA Europa League meeting with FC Vaslui and their in-form striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel hopes it will long continue. "If we keep on winning, you never know where it will end," he told UEFA.com.
Sporting, the early Group D leaders, are seeking their eighth straight win on Thursday and Van Wolfswinkel is aiming to continue his hot streak in front of goal. The 22-year-old, Sporting's second biggest signing of last summer in a €5.4m deal from FC Utrecht, has eight goals from his last seven games – a sequence bettering his six in seven for Utrecht last term.
Van Wolfswinkel scored twice in Domingos Paciência's side's 2-0 win at third-tier FC Famalicão in the Portuguese Cup on Saturday, and said: "At the moment we are playing very well and we must keep this [going]."
The Netherlands forward had made it two in two matches in the UEFA Europa League after netting Sporting's opener in the 2-1 home success over S.S. Lazio on matchday two. That victory followed an opening defeat of FC Zürich and leaves Sporting four points clear of second-placed Vaslui in Group D.
Viorel Hizo's visitors may want to pay particularly close attention to Van Wolfswinkel in the 21st minute of Thursday's game – this being the time he scored against both Zürich and Lazio.
It is a happy turn of events for Van Wolfswinkel who made a slow start in Lisbon. He began just one of Sporting's first five matches of the campaign – of which they won one – yet then made the most of Hélder Postiga's deadline-day departure for Real Zaragoza. The turning point came on 10 September when he stepped off the bench to grab an 83th-minute winner as Sporting came from two goals down to beat FC Paços de Ferreira with three late strikes.
So far, every time Van Wolfwinkel has scored, Sporting have won. One Dutch coach, Aad de Mos, has even been moved to compare him to Marco van Basten. "He has a style much like Van Basten," said De Mos, who led KV Mechelen to the 1988 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup and launched the careers of both strikers.
His clever positioning in the box, killer instinct and shooting ability are certainly pleasing Sporting's fans who may have found a replacement for their erstwhile idol Liedson. Van Wolfswinkel was voted the second most fashionable footballer of 2011, behind AFC Ajax midfielder Demy de Zeeuw, by the Dutch Esquire magazine yet has already received a more pertinent individual accolade in Portugal: September's player of the month award from the Portuguese Professional Players' Union.
"Things are going well after a difficult start for me and for the team – that is the most important thing," he said. "I'm glad I can help with my goals."
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