Feyenoord head into Thursday's UEFA Europa League play-off opener against FC Kuban Krasnodar off the back of their worst ever start to an Eredivisie campaign but coach Ronald Koeman is not sounding any alarm bells just yet.
The Rotterdam club are the second most successful Dutch club on the European stage having become the first team from the Netherlands to lift the European Cup in 1970. They went on to win the UEFA Cup in 1974 and 2002 but without a domestic title since 1998/99, Feyenoord have endured some lean years and only in the last two campaigns with Koeman at the helm have they returned to the upper reaches of the top flight.
There was optimism aplenty ahead of the 2013/14 season but an opening-day defeat at PEC Zwolle preceded a 4-1 home reverse against FC Twente and a 2-1 loss at rivals AFC Ajax to dampen spirits, yet Koeman remains undeterred.
"This is not dramatic, as it is only three matches," said the former Vitesse, Ajax, SL Benfica, PSV Eindhoven, Valencia CF and AZ Alkmaar coach after their defeat in Amsterdam on Sunday. "Of course we are disappointed by this, but with what I have seen [against Ajax] we can push on. I have not seen a team who are content with the situation."
Feyenoord will be buoyed by their second and third-placed finishes in the last two seasons which have been achieved with a core of young players from the club's academy. The likes of Stefan de Vrij, Bruno Martins Indi, Ruben Schaken, Daryl Janmaat and Jordy Clasie have all featured at full international level and Koeman is optimistic that they can rise to the challenge against their Russian opponents, starting in Krasnodar on Thursday.
"The past few years this group of players have performed fantastically well," said the 50-year-old. "This week the Europa League play-off against Kuban Krasnodar awaits us and after that we have to start collecting points in the league. We aim for the best and that includes European football. As a player you get tested more often against foreign opponents. These are the type of matches we have missed in the past two years. For the club, the players and the supporters it would be of huge value if we can reach the group stage."
Feyenoord will have their work cut out to turn around their domestic form on the European stage, they have only won once in three attempts on Russian soil; a 1-0 UEFA Cup first round victory against FC Spartak Moskva in September 1996. Although that game might be too distant a memory for many of the current Feyenoord crop, they need only look to the 2002 vintage for inspiration.
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