The tag of underdog may just suit Feyenoord when they meet Internazionale FC tonight.
According to coach Bert van Marwijk, Feyenoord will be "underdogs" at the San Siro tonight when they face Internazionale FC in their UEFA Cup semi-final first leg. But he was quick to add: "We are happy in that role. It may suit us."
Huge travelling support
Van Marwijk is not alone in that view. As many as 10,000 Dutch supporters could join him as the Feyenoord family descends on the scene of the club's finest hour. Indeed, it was at the Giuseppe Meazza stadium, 32 summers ago, that 'Feije' became the Netherlands' first European champions when they triumphed over Celtic FC. Van Marwijk's enterprising side now stands on the brink of adding to that meagre tally.
A 3-2 quarter-final defeat of Rangers FC in Rotterdam was the latest proof that Feyenoord's adventurous style can win football matches as well as admirers. Inter coach Hector Cúper said: "They like to get the ball down and take the game to the opposition. But the most important thing is that they have technical players who can play football."
But for Van Marwijk, whose men lost to PSV Eindhoven on penalties in the Dutch Cup quarter-finals in January, "concentration" will be the key. Certainly, with a back four comprising three converted midfield players - Brett Emerton, Tomasz Rzasa and Patrick Paauwe (who is doubtful for tonight) - attack could be their best form of defence. "Inter will hand us the initiative and once you have the initiative against a team like them you must stay concentrated," he said.
Old and new
Paauwe is the coach's sole injury doubt. He could make way for the Dutch youth international Glenn Loovens, one of two 18-year-olds in the likely starting lineup along with Robin van Persie. Even so, in Paul Bosvelt, Jon Dahl Tomasson and Pierre van Hooijdonk, there is also enough experience to suggest an upset. "We can do a great thing for Dutch football," Van Marwijk said. "The country will be proud of us if we reach the final."
Inter's Cúper would not look that far ahead. Indeed, he refused to discuss a possible final against city rivals Milan AC who meet BV Borussia Dortmund in tonight's other semi-final. He also gave little away as to his team. "I will pick the best players available," he said. "I can't confirm anything."
Captain Javier Zanetti and top scorer Christian Vieri are unlikely to feature, both are suffering with slight knocks, but Ronaldo is back in full training and is "50/50" to play. "I don't know yet," Cúper said. "I want to speak to him to see how he's feeling. But if he is fit there could be a place for him. He can make the difference." If not the Brazilian, expect a front two of Alvaro Recoba and Nicola Ventola. Dario Simic should deputise for Zanetti, while Alberto Fontana comes in for suspended goalkeeper Francesco Toldo.
Vieri's winning goal at AC Fiorentina on Saturday gave Inter a three-point lead at the top of Serie A and, with two trophies to play for, Cúper admitted to feeling "optimistic". "I am delighted with the mood at the club and among the squad. Right now our thoughts are only about winning."
He did sound one note of caution, however, when he added: "With the trophies so near, you can sense a few nerves in the dressing room. You can feel the pressure and you could see this in the performance at Fiorentina. But it would be a huge mistake to relax now." Although the Scudetto is likely to be the club's main priority, the ambitious Argentinian will not accept anything less than total commitment from his players. "We want it more than they do," he said.