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Opposition Analysis: Feyenoord's tactical approach explained

Having overcome Partizan Belgrade, Slavia Prague and Olympique de Marseille in the knockout rounds to reach the inaugural UEFA Europa Conference League final while playing some brilliant football, Feyenoord will be a formidable foe for AS Roma.

Making their first European final in 20 years - after they memorably won the 2002 UEFA Cup against Borussia Dortmund - the Dutch outfit are eager to add the Conference League to their continental trophy cabinet, which also consists of the 1970 European Cup and the 1974 UEFA Cup.

"To reach a final you need luck at the right moments, but this group certainly has quality too. We've made people proud, but it's not over yet," coach Arne Slot stated.

"The supporters have always been proud, but I think we have made them very proud, not only with our performances in Europe. But again, we haven't won anything yet and we really want to do that."

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Playing an attacking brand of football and boasting so many weapons, Roma's defence will need to be right on top of their game to blunt Feyenoord's fearsome frontline.

Needing to keep a close eye on the likes of Cyriel Dessers, Luis Sinisterra, Bryan Linssen, Guus Til and Reiss Nelson, these men pose an immense threat in the final third. Indeed, seeing as their aforementioned chief attacking stars have combined for 51 Eredivisie goals and 24 assists illustrates their quality.

Moreover, star midfielder Orkun Kokcu (should he be fit) will need to be monitored closely too, for the multifaceted Turkish international has been a huge asset on his way to bagging seven league goals and nine assists.

Such a major threat from set pieces too, just like Roma are, Feyenoord's nicely executed and varied routines will need to be analysed thoroughly. Finishing third for goals scored from corners on 16 in the Dutch top flight, this has been an integral component of their armoury.

Upon switching the focus to their mechanics in possession, it's easy to see why they're so prolific offensively, for they excel at manipulating backlines to conjure openings.

Typically preferring to build out from the back when possible, they deploy many different strategies to beat and unbalance the opposition's first line of pressure. Doing a fine job of stretching pressing units with their wide splitting central defenders and deep sitting fullbacks, this opens lanes into their midfielders.

Whether it be accessing Fredrik Aursnes as a lone pivot, Aursnes and Kokcu as a double pivot or the dropping attacking midfielder Guus Til, they do a superb job of mixing things up with their positioning depending on the opponent or situation to throw off opponents.

It's also been notable how the fullbacks will often step centrally into midfield to give them an extra number and another option, which places doubt in the minds of markers whether they should follow or stay put.

As the fullback indents, the nearby centre back will usually have room to drive upfield into the half spaces to provoke pressers while the ball near winger will then pull wide to either make a run in the vacant channel or receive in advantageous 1v1s.

To further put off adversaries, one of the two nominal central midfielders from their base 4-2-3-1 will frequently drop into auxiliary fullback/wide central defenders locations, which then triggers the fullback to push high and the winger to tuck infield, giving them multiple options to breathe life into attacks.

An added bonus of the above positioning from the fullbacks and midfielders is that it allows them extra time and space on the ball to assess their options while offering structural stability in case of a turnover and allows them to cover if a centre back dribbles upfield.

Masters at generating overloads and giving the ball holder many passing angles, Roma will need to devise some shrewd stopping mechanisms to deal with Feyenoord's multifaceted ball progression methods out from the back.

As they move into midfield and establish possession, Feyenoord are extremely dangerous at manufacturing openings in the final third as well. Exceptional at exposing their foes with devastating runs in behind, something Slot specialises in coaching to his players, the Roma backline will need to be super attentive and focused to deal with their menace here.

So quick to exploit spaces down the channels when the fullback is drawn out, gaps between central defenders and the blindside of markers, they time their runs perfectly once the man in possession has the ball on his preferred foot and can spot the runner. Doing a fine job of gaining separation and directing their bursts to amplify their chances of latching onto through balls, it's been a joy to watch them in full flight.

To compound issues for rearguards, how they use opposite movements, where one will drop deep to draw out a marker before the other then attacks the space left behind, has added to their worth. So good at pinning and luring out markers to make room for teammates both in front of and in behind defences, plus at performing subtle rotations to cause extra marking dilemmas, they're certainly a team that can hurt opponents in many ways.

It's also been notable how multiple runners will coordinate runs simultaneously within close proximity, which has proven very hard for defenders to manage especially if a stopper is caught ball watching or two defenders go for the same man.

Posing such danger in behind, backlines are often pushed that little bit deeper, with this consequently opening up room for the likes Til and the free ranging Kokcu to get on the ball between the lines centrally.

The relationship between the winger and fullback in advanced areas has been positive too, for they dovetail nicely so both men can get on the ball on the inside or outside.

Particularly impressive has been the underlaps from the fullbacks, thus meaning they can charge into the gaps between fullback and centre back to maraud into the area and fire in crosses and cutbacks.

With the help of closeby attackers and midfielders, numerical advantages are regularly formed out wide, with these facilitating the above underlaps and being conducive to bypass the opposition's wide defensive shape.

Courtesy of their immensely talented wingers such as Sinisterra and Arsenal loanee Nelson, Feyenoord make headway through striking switches of play so they can be isolated and use their qualities to torment opponents. Be it breezing by their tracker, finding room to shoot or fire in deliveries into the box and attracting multiple opponents, their presence has given them some vital unpredictability and impetus.

Knowing their worth here and potential to score from firing balls into the area, Slot's team get many numbers in the box, prepared to unleash efforts on net. Instructing many men to attack the area, the far side winger, centre forward, attacking midfielder and late arriving central midfielder ensure many options at different heights are available to be found.

If De Stadionclub can't beat the initial press, they have no problem going long, where the likes of Dessers and Linssen are capable of holding the ball up, laying the ball off coherently and winning second balls to the strategically positioned mids or obliging runners in behind with headed flick ons.

Having scored the most goals from counter attacks in the Dutch top flight with nine, limiting their impact here will be high on Jose Mourinho's agenda.

Boasting so many speedy players and rapid to attack spaces behind onrushing fullbacks and good at drawing defenders with a dropping forward to act as the initial outlet, they don't need a second invitation to spring into life in transition.

By the numbers in the Eredivisie, the below figures aptly depict their attacking menace:

1st for dribble success rate 57.8%
2nd for shots 16.98 per 90
2nd for touches inside the box 27.21 p90
2nd for through balls 9.74 p90
2nd for key passes 5.02 p90
2nd for progressuve runs 18.12 p90
2nd for crosses 18.09 p90
2nd for possession 57.7%
3rd for dribbles 30.38 p90
3rd for goals scored 76
3rd for expected goals 69.56
4th for progressive passes 77.93 p90

Meanwhile, in terms of their defensive output, Feyenoord have proven they're no slouches in this phase. Wanting his team to press high and impose themselves on their adversaries, the fact Slot's team were the second highest pressers in the Eredivisie with a PPDA of 8.32, shows his philosophy.

Aggressive and intelligent when harrying their opponents, the centre forward kicks things off by curving his press to the ball near centre back so he can use his cover shadow to block access to the far sided one. From here, the nearby winger will either mark the fullback or screen the pass lane to them while the far side winger tucks infield to monitor the nearby central midfielder.

The attacking midfielder will then keep tabs on the deepest midfielder, while the two central midfielders are ready to press wider to the fullback, mark their opposite numbers or close off forward passing routes.

The fullbacks will either jump up to press their opposing fullback, stay tight to their winger or push infield to make the defence compact if the ball is on the opposite flank.

Determined, forceful and having no worries stepping out when their opponent drops deep with their back to goal, the central defenders, mostly Marcos Senesi and Gernot Trauner, apply vigorous pressure to break up play aerially and on the ground.

Wanting to force opponents wide or into central traps and typically having good access to many adversaries, their pressing has worked as a good playmaker, allowing them to create some fantastic chances when they win the ball back high.

The way they react to specific triggers like a player receiving with their back to goal or in an open body posture, when a pass backwards or wide is played, if a pass is underhit or if an opponent is inheriting the ball on their wrong foot, increases their ability to recover possession.

Also counterpressing with gusto instantly when they turn the ball over, their desire to get at the man on the ball and shut down potential options has borne fruit.

As a result, they can attack backpedalling, unset defences to generate some quality opportunities on goal.

If their counterpress is broken or they aren't set up to do so adequately, which can be the case sometimes due to them committing many numbers forward, this could be an area where Roma, who can be so lethal in transition, could find joy.

Another battle that will be fascinating and game changing will be observing how Feyenoord deal with Roma's prowess from set pieces. But seeing as Feyenoord have only conceded four goals all season from such situations, this avenue might prove slightly more difficult to score through for the Giallorossi. Then again, there aren't many better than Roma from dead balls so watching how these instances are handled will provide an entertaining subplot.

Upon scouring their defensive data, some extra key takeaways are that they conceded the second least goals (34), were second for expected goals conceded (32.39) and gave up the second least shots (7.62 p90).

Implementing his principles so effectively on both sides of the ball to transform this team to a more progressive team than that of his predecessor, Dick Advocaat, Slot deserves tremendous credit for what's been a wonderful first season in charge.

With both he and Mourinho looking to cap off their debut campaigns with their respective clubs with some silverware, the stage is set for an enthralling final between two outstanding teams.

One that's certainly fitting to decide who'll be crowned the inaugural champion of this new competition.

Follow Edward Stratmann on Twitter: @EdwardStratmann