Eredivisie preview 30: Ajax, PSV and sixteen other teams
With PSV and Ajax usurping all of the attention shown towards Dutch football this weekend, the other 16 Eredivisie-clubs are screaming: “We’re still here as well, you know!” and they are more than right. Even though Ajax are league leaders and PSV are their main rivals, there is a possibility it will only be a match-up between the number two and four in the league, with Vitesse and Feyenoord playing ahead of their rivals. That is to say if Vitesse trash Roda JC by 15 goals or more and Feyenoord grab a win away at RKC Waalwijk. While the latter perhaps is likely, the former is not and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out why.
However, things kick off on Friday night with PEC Zwolle visiting De Koel to play VVV-Venlo. Zwolle are all but safe, with five games to go and four points above the relegation play-off spots. To ensure Eredivisie survival though, they do need a few more points and this might be the game to get those. For VVV it’s the other way around. They’re all but certain of a place in the relegation play-offs. While they sit five points above bottom side Willem II, they are still eight points behind Zwolle, AZ and RKC. The plaudits have been coming their way recently, sadly the points haven’t. Manager Ton Lokhoff sees this: “It’s time to get out of this negative spiral, a lack of goals has been our problem recently… The team’s playing well and we are creating chances… We need to reward ourselves for our encouraging play. And the only reward is a victory.”
A win for VVV would bring them to within a point of 16th placed Roda , who face a difficult test this weekend as they host Vitesse at the Parkstad Limburg Stadion. With Vitesse striker Wilfried Bony on fire (29 goals in 26 games) and the Arnhem club on a seven match winning streak, it will be hard for Roda to get anything out of this match. However, coach Ruud Brood feels his team could get a result. “In recent weeks, we have shown we can give the best teams a hard time, especially at home. We did that against PSV and Feyenoord. If we show that same intensity, we can make life difficult for Vitesse.” For the visitors, midfield general Theo Janssen will return after suspension, a welcome bonus for Fred Rutten, who is looking to extend his stay at the Arnhem-club. “Both I and the club have the intention to continue with each other. Slowly but steadily, we’ve created a top professional climate here. This group does not party after every victory anymore, their focus is back on what’s important immediately nowadays.” A win is vital for Vitesse’s title chances. Next week, they have an away trip to Feyenoord scheduled and they’ll want to go there while still being above the Rotterdammers.
The next day, Feyenoord will visit Waalwijk in a clash between brothers. RKC are, as the aforementioned Zwolle, all but safe and Feyenoord need the points to pursue their title hopes. However, older brother Erwin, who managed Feyenoord between 2005 and 2007, won’t hand the points to his younger brother Ronald. However, things aren’t looking good for the Waalwijk club. Of the four times the brothers have met as managers, Erwin has only drawn once, losing the other three. Ronald Koeman will be happy to welcome back his young midfield starlet Jordy Clasie, who missed the game against VVV through suspension. Furthermore, he has hopes for attacking midfielder and second top scorer Lex Immers, who was injured last weekend. “Lex’s training went well. It would be a huge boost for us if he can be fit for this Sunday’s game.” A win would see Feyenoord leapfrog PSV in anticipation of the big clash between PSV and Ajax.
About that clash, BeNe Foot has a whole host of articles to provide you with the full context of the highly anticipated clash. Check out the links:
From a PSV-perspective: ‘Potent PSV need a win for the title’
From an Ajax-perspective: ‘In-form Ajax are ready to win it’
Tactical preview: ‘Ajax must take control before half time’
Overall preview: ‘A current champion fending off the challenge of an old one’
It’s not only exciting at the top, however. The battle for Europa League play-off places is still very much alive. Twente and Utrecht are certain of the first two spots, as they sit level on 51 points and hold a 13 point gap over seventh placed Heerenveen. But Heerenveen and NEC Nijmegen, who currently sit eighth in the league with 37 points, will have to put in work to get to the finish line before the likes of ADO Den Haag, Groningen and Heracles Almelo can catch up. With the latter two sides facing each other this weekend, a win for Heerenveen against bottom of the league Willem II would be very welcome and could see them shake off at least one of their rivals. The Frisians took a blow last week when they were outplayed by Groningen in the Euroborg (3-1), but their form prior to that match was excellent, as they were on a five game winning streak. With games against Ajax, AZ and Utrecht coming up, this is the moment to regain the winning spirit.
NEC will visit NAC Breda. The NAC – NEC is a special match solely because of the names and the derby-vibe that surrounds it is probably the only reason for NAC to put in some extra work. The Bredanaren are six points off relegation trouble and five away from the Europa League places. With seven players out injured, NAC are likely to see out the season in comfortable style instead of making one last effort to enhance the slim chances on Europa League play-offs. NEC still have Twente and PSV to face, so they’ll be looking at this game as one of the easier ones. Apart from Nick van der Velden, who is suspended following his red card last week, and the injured Ruud Boymans, NEC have a fit squad for the clash with NAC.
AZ are resting on their laurels at the moment, like RKC and Zwolle. Too good to go down and with competition too weak to really drag them into a relegation scrap, they are looking quite comfortable. The most important game of the season is still to be played though, as PSV await in the Dutch Cup Final. The Europa League Play-off contenders will be rooting for the Eindhovenaren in that one, as that will give whoever finishes fifth in the league a direct ticket to the Europa League preliminaries and hands the ninth placed team of the regular competition the fourth spot for the play-offs.
This Sunday, one of the two contenders for fifth will visit: Utrecht, who are looking to take over fifth place in case Twente slip up against ADO Den Haag. The latter seems unlikely though. ADO Den Haag will have visitors from Enschede, and with their abysmal form, they’re not likely to get anything out of the clash with Twente. With topscorer and top creator Dusan Tadic back after serving suspension (the first Eredivisie-match he has missed since joining the competition in 2010), Twente will be anticipating a comfortable victory. Manager Alfred Schreuder is conscious of ADO’s threats though and singles out a former pupil: “ADO Den Haag are a team that can play rather solid defensively, always searches for a footballing solution and in Tjaronn Chery (played in the Twente youth under Schreuder), they possess a genuine playmaker… We can look forward to a tough evening.” An ADO loss will see them drop to 10th whatever happens, as the current sides in 10th and 11th places are clashing in Almelo.
Groningen have recorded back-to-back wins, but an away game against Heracles has never been their favourite fixture. With PSV and Ajax still coming up however, this is a must win. Heracles are merely in a better situation, with away games at Feyenoord and Utrecht and the local derby against Twente at home coming up in the forthcoming weeks. Groningen will be without their top player central defender Virgil van Dijk due to suspension and with defenders Nick Bakker and Johan Kappelhof injured, they have defensive problems. And since they are hardly the biggest attacking threat a team could face (30 goals in 29 games), Heracles will feel confident. The injury of playmaker Lerin Duarte is a bit of a blow, but for the rest Peter Bosz can pick from a fit squad and he is looking forward to the game. “For us and Groningen, only a victory will count. It could result in an attractive game.”