Thomas Beelen seizes his opportunity due to the overcrowded infirmary at Feyenoord. Trainer Arne Slot has appointed the summer signing as a replacement for Gernot Trauner, who will be absent for the foreseeable future with an upper leg injury. Beelen was therefore allowed to start in the starting line-up for the third time this season on Sunday. He filled that in with verve, but will only face his first 'real' showdown against AS Roma and striker Romelu Lukaku next Thursday.

“Should Lukaku wet his chest?” asks ESPN to Beelen after the match against Sparta Rotterdam. The Harderwijker (22) kept a clean sheet together with defense partner Dávid Hancko (2-0).

“I'm going to do my utmost if I can play,” Beelen answers with a laugh. Due to the lessons of recent times, he dares to compete with Lukaku.

“I have learned a lot defensively and still have a lot to learn, because at PEC (Beelen's previous club, ed.) it was fairly full throttle forward,” Beelen explains. “Then I was a defender, but I didn't defend like it is here. And there is now a lot more thinking involved with the ball, I had to get used to that. But it's getting better.”

Feyenoord has not conceded a goal since Beelen's entrance. Moreover, no less than 97 percent of his passes came against Sparta. Will Beelen finally take his chance? “Ultimately you know that things like injuries happen in a season, so if you don't play much you have to at least make sure you stay fit.”

And Beelen is still fit: the ice after his substitution against Sparta was purely for aftercare. “There wasn't much going on, but I just had a bit of stiff thighs. I feel good.”

If Slot chooses Beelen on Thursday, it would mean his second game as a starting player in a European context. Beelen also kicked off during the last Champions League match, which was lost 2-1 to Celtic.

Slot can also choose to move Lutsharel Geertruida back to the center. In such a case, Bart Nieuwskoop would be on the right, just like in the final phase of the match with Sparta.

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