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Ricky van Wolfswinkel ready for Liverpool test

Uefa Europa League: FC Utrecht v Liverpool
Venue: Stadion Galgenwaard Date: Thursday 30 September KO: 1945 BST
Coverage: Live text commentary on BBC Sport website, coverage on BBC Radio 5 live & BBC local radio; Also live on ITV4

Ricky van Wolfswinkel
Van Wolfswinkel has set his sights on the Premier League

By Saj Chowdhury

Financial problems, poor league form and cup humiliation at the hands of Northampton - Liverpool are feeling a bit tender at the moment.

But solace awaits them in the comforting arms of the Europa League.

The competition has been kind to Roy Hodgson's side so far. Macedonia side Rabotnicki and Turkish club Trabzonspor were disposed of in the two qualifying rounds before Liverpool started their group campaign with a 4-1 win against Steaua Bucharest.

And on Thursday, the Reds travel to Dutch outfit FC Utrecht, a side currently trying to break into the top half of the Eredivisie.

On paper, it is an away win for a club that has five European Cup victories and also triumphed in the continent's second tier competition three times. But to record a victory, they may have to stop one of the hottest prospects in Dutch football - Ricky van Wolfswinkel.

The 21-year-old striker has a name that is every red-top editor's dream but 13 strikes in 14 league and European games proves he has the talent to command headlines.

Indeed, his pun-friendly surname has tickled a few, including his own team-mates.

"They sometimes call me Van Wolfsshop because 'winkel' means 'shop' in English - it's funny eh?" he told BBC Sport.

The former product of the Vitesse youth academy is desperate to add to his tally against Premier League opposition but realises he faces a tough task.

"I look forward to the challenge of playing against a higher level of defender," said the 6ft 1in forward, who won his first cap for the Netherlands against Ukraine in August.

606: DEBATE
Gibson

"I will try to pick up some points and take what I learn back to the Dutch league. Of course, I will also be looking to score against Liverpool.

"We are confident as a team. We've come from a long way, having had to play six qualifying games just to get to the group stages."

Van Wolfswinkel has already tested his abilities against a top British side, with his hat-trick helping knock Celtic out of the Europa League in one of those qualifying rounds.

"The speed is high," he added as he assessed the way British clubs tend to play football. "I don't want to call it kick and rush but these teams play a high tempo. It's different from our style."

Van Wolfswinkel was recently linked with a move to Anfield and Newcastle in the last transfer window but Jan Wouters, assistant to Utrecht coach Ton du Chatinier, cautioned that a move to England so early in the player's career.

Ruud Gullit

Archive: USSR 0-2 Netherlands - Euro 88

"His biggest quality is scoring goals but he's a young guy and has a lot to learn," said the 50-year-old Wouters, who won 70 caps for the Netherlands between 1982 and 1994 as well as a European Championship.

"He needs to improve on holding the ball and become physically stronger. He has to learn to be key to an attack not only at the end of a move but at the start, too.

"The speculation surrounding him doesn't annoy me. That's life in Dutch football. What I do know is that it is much too early for Ricky to move to clubs like Liverpool or Newcastle."

Blunt talk from Wouters but history suggests - Rafael van der Vaart went to Hamburg at the age of 22, while Robin van Persie joined Arsenal when he was 21 - that the urge to join big European clubs is almost irresistible for young Dutch players.

And more than half of the players in the last 24-man Netherlands squad named by Bert van Marjwick were playing abroad.

"I think I could get used to the English style of play and would like to play for a club like Liverpool one day but that's a long way off for me," added Van Wolfswinkel. "I want to continue to improve my standard to a level of a Liverpool player."

One former Utrecht player who has succeeded in England is Liverpool forward Dirk Kuyt, who is set to play against his former club on Thursday.

Kuyt, who joined Feyenoord from Utrecht before moving to Liverpool, is one of many forwards that Van Wolfswinkel admires.

"FC Utrecht and the fans are excited about Kuyt returning to his old club," said Van Wolfswinkel.

"He went to Feyenoord then Liverpool and became a big success. One of my heroes is Marco Van Basten, while a current player I look up to is Schalke's Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.

"Another striker, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, is back in the Dutch side - I can learn a lot from the guys who are playing in the national team."

Van Wolfswinkel is clearly serious about his career progression and would dearly love to be mentioned in same breath as Van Basten, Van Nistelrooy and Dennis Bergkamp one day.

But as things stand, he is content to continue his progression at Utrecht, who finished seventh in the league last year and are currently lying in 12th place after seven matches .

"Thirteen goals so far this season - I think it's good for now," he said.

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see also
FC Utrecht v Liverpool
30 Sep 10 |  Europe
Utrecht 4-0 Celtic (agg 4-2)
26 Aug 10 |  Europe
Wouters bemoans 'sloppy' goals
19 Aug 10 |  Scotland
Wouters takes Dutch post
26 Apr 04 |  Internationals


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