Eredivisie preview 33: Willem II’s relegation will see Ajax become champions

Fixture week 33! Eighteen teams! Nine games! All at the same time! 1230 CET! JOY! EXCITEMENT!
Enough with the big words, on with the football.

After a big week for Willem IV (although he will be addressed as King Willem Alexander), a big weekend for Willem II is coming up. But as certain as the crowning of the king was this week, that is about as certain as Willem II’s relegation is. In fact, a crowning is more common than that what is necessary for them to sustain the slightest bit of chance, as that event has taken place only a few days ago and Willem II have never won away from home against Ajax. And that is the exact fixture of this Sunday. To add to the misery, Ajax will become champions if they beat the Tilburg-side. In the two previous seasons, Siem De Jong could be relied upon to score in the champions game, as he scored in both. He, and virtually every other player in the Ajax squad are fit for the big game. As one will be likely  crowned champions, one other with a royal name is likely to go down.

In advance on both: Ajax have been the most consistent team in the league and have only lost twice (Vitesse home and away). The humongous number of draws (10) has delayed something that became unavoidable quite soon in the second half of the season. Ajax are deservedly champions and after a seven year league title-drought, Frank de Boer has done a tremendous job sanitising a squad full of misfires and replacing them with youth products. His third title in as many years as a manager is again a deserved reward.

Willem II meanwhile have simply not been good enough. They have conceded the most and scored the least goals of all the teams in the division. Some felt they weren’t ready for promotion yet last year and this year that became perfectly clear. In Jurgen Streppel they have a good and young manager and the board has been wise in extending his contract nonetheless. The Tilburg-based club can be expected back soon. A city as big as Tilburg and a club with a history as grand as that of ‘The Tricolores’ is simply too iconic to be a mainstay in the second tier of Dutch football. Willem II will be replaced by First Division champions Cambuur Leeuwarden, who knocked FC Volendam off the top by winning 0-2 at Excelsior, while the Volendammers lost 3-1 away to Go Ahead Eagles.

In between the numbers 1 and 18, the victory and the drama, a whole lot of football is still to be played. Number 2 plays for instance, and that is PSV. They’ll play NEC Nijmegen and with number 3 Feyenoord level on points, this is a must-win, especially considering they have a tough away trip  to FC Twente coming up next week. With NEC unlikely to overturn their dramatic form though, PSV should beat the Nijmegenaren rather comfortably. Apart from Wijnaldum, who is in doubt for the game due to a knee injury, and winger Luciano Narsingh, who has missed all of 2013, the selection is fit and suspension-free.

Feyenoord will have a tough away trip to ADO Den Haag and will be without Jean Paul Boëtius again, while captain Stefan De Vrij’s participation is still in doubt. Meanwhile, ADO Den Haag are not a team for Charlie Sheen, as the hashtag #winning hasn’t applied to the Resident side for seven games now. Being a derby, it could however be a tricky game for Feyenoord, who need a win and rely on FC Twente to take points off of PSV next week, when they welcome NAC Breda in De Kuip.

Fourth placed  Vitesse will be looking to officially secure Europa League football away at RKC Waalwijk (15th), who are in some right shambles at the moment. The latter is safe by one point and they do have a better goal difference than Roda JC, but if Roda manage to win, RKC is looking at the perspective of a prolonged season in the relegation play-offs. Roda JC will be travelling to Breda to meet NAC (14th), who are five points above them and are technically still in danger of being dragged in to.

FC Twente, who occupy the fifth spot at the moment, will battle Heracles in Almelo for the bragging rights of the region in the Twente-derby. FC Twente have been in pretty good shape lately and are unbeaten in their last six, while Heracles conceded six in their last game against Feyenoord (6-0).  With Heracles already safe (they’re in ninth place) and FC Twente already qualified for the Europa League play-offs, it is a game only of prestige.

It’s all sixes and sevens, or rather sevens and sixes at the Abe Lenstra-stadion, as SC Heerenveen welcome FC Utrecht, who are one place above them. Heerenveen need a win to seal their qualification play-off spot, which could see them pitted against their opponents of the day, as FC Utrecht are already certain of one.  FC Groningen can do the same when they face VVV-Venlo in De Koel, as the Groningers are level on points with the Friezen of Heerenveen. VVV-Venlo are vastly in 17th placed and are a certainty for the relegation play-offs, unless something miraculous in the Ajax – Willem II game happens.

The last game this weekend (although, as mentioned before, they all start at the same time) is Dutch Cup finalists AZ Alkmaar versus PEC Zwolle. The two are joint twelfth, although AZ does have a better goal difference. For FC Zwolle, survival would crown a beautiful season, for AZ survival is a must after a dreadful league campaign. Both need one point to survive. Will this be an ‘Italian style’ draw?

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