FC Twente coach Steve McClaren was his usual engaging self on Wednesday, holding forth on his team's inconsistent form, what makes European nights so special and why Levante UD will be tough to crack. Yet almost every considered thought, every reverential air, carried the same appendage: "We need to win."
This is win or bust for the Eredivisie leaders. Their 3-0 UEFA Europa League defeat at Levante a fortnight ago, when their attacking endeavours were clinically dissected, left them third in Group L, four points adrift of the Spanish side and five behind Hannover 96. They can afford no further slip-ups. "It is half-time in the group phase," reasoned McClaren. "We did not have a good first half and need a better performance in the second. We need to win all three matches, certainly our two home games."
Twente are formidable opposition on their own turf, last week's Dutch Cup reverse against FC Den Bosch the only stain on a fine record this season. Sunday's dominant 3-0 victory over Feyenoord put them back on track, the perfect start to a "big week" that will conclude with an Eredivisie trip to third-placed Vitesse. "We have to perform with passion and intensity as we showed on Sunday," said McClaren.
"The confidence is always there, the belief," added the Englishman, who guided Middlesbrough FC to the 2006 UEFA Cup final. "We know what we are capable of and on Sunday the whole club was behind the team. We all fought together – we were all going in one direction, forward." They were not exactly on the back foot two weeks ago in a sodden Valencia, either, and still suffered a heavy loss. McClaren was a frustrated, if impressed, onlooker.
"[Levante] are compact, drop deep and rely on a really quick transition," he said. "They rely on mistakes. Two weeks ago we made mistakes and they punished us. They know we have to force the game this time, be positive; they will be patient, sit back and wait for the mistakes. We showed in Levante that we can play, we can create. We're at home so we must be positive and go for the win."
Twente's ambitions have been tempered by the loss of Nacer Chadli and Leroy Fer to injury, though McClaren reckons the promise of extending their UEFA Europa League campaign can spur his side on against a Levante team who have lost five of their last seven away games. "The players love playing in Europe – the travelling, going to different places, playing against different teams," he said. "It develops players, their development and that of the team. We want to continue into the new year. We need to win."
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