Eredivisie Round 29 Preview: Pellè’s return a real fillip for Feyenoord.
And then there were three? Surely it is too early to stop regarding Feyenoord as title contenders with six games to go and only trailing by four points although they didn’t do themselves any favours losing to SC Heerenveen last week. However, with Vitesse still to host Feyenoord and Ajax having to go to PSV in the next fortnight, there’s still all to play for as Feyenoord meet VVV Venlo in De Kuip.
Ronald Koeman feels his side are still right in it. ‘I reckon the title race will be decided on the last day. We’ll have to win every game in order to still have a shot then.” Fortunately for Koeman, Graziano Pellè is back in action after serving suspension. He won’t have his usual supply line though as midfielders Lex Immers and Jordy Clasie miss out through injury and suspension respectively. Wonderkid Trindade de Vilhena, who is just 18, is expected to fill up the gap left by Immers, while Vormer is replacing Clasie. Opponents VVV are also trailing by four points, but only at the bottom in order to evade the relegation play-offs. Since they have lost four on the trot, it’s starting to turn into a mission impossible. With Willem II five points behind them, automatic relegation seems out of the question.
Speaking of Willem II, de Tricolores are hosting second-placed PSV with both sides needing to win after throwing away leads last week. PSV should win this comfortably, but drawing against 16th placed Roda JC last week is confirmation of how the club from de Lichtstad can struggle against supposedly weaker opposition.
Vitesse face NAC Breda and are going for a seventh win on the bounce. With Bony spearheading the attack, goals will be expected, but unfortunately deep-lying playmaker Theo Janssen is suspended, breaking up the influential midfield trio he forms with Van Ginkel and Kakuta. Furthermore, Chelsea-loanee and left back Patrick Van Aanholt is out with injury. Although Vitesse look to have the kindest run-in of the title chasers, manager Fred Rutten is keeping calm: “I am not getting involved in this opportunism, we’ll consider things from game to game.” NAC are without six players and a clash with the form side in the country is not what’s needed for the stuttering side from Noord Brabant.
If Heracles take nothing from Ajax away, they could see themselves eclipsed by FC Groningen, who will be looking to seize on the morale boost of morale from last week’s victory over Willem II. They meet Heerenveen in what should be another highly charged derby clash. The Frisians have been in terrific form of late and have beaten PSV, Twente and Feyenoord in recent weeks. FC Groningen miss striker Genero Zeefuik due to injury, while Henk Bos is ill and Maikel Kieftenbeld suspended. With Heerenveen fully fit and both Finnbogason and Djuricic in great form, it will be tough for FC Groningen to prevent Heerenveen making it a Derby van het Noorden double this season. Both are still in contention for the Europa League play-offs.
ADO Den Haag are too and they will travel to FC Utrecht after a 4-0 beating by RKC Waalwijk. ADO have been atrocious away from home lately and Utrecht have been impressive at home this season. For Jens Toornstra, it is a meeting with the club he left only three months ago and he’ll be keen to show them just why he moved clubs. Utrecht are almost certain to be in the play-offs and are currently battling FC Twente for fifth.
For FC Twente, these play-offs are less and less avoidable. The target set at the beginning of the season of reaching the top four, is as good as gone. They will be looking to get a second win of 2013 against Roda. With main creator and goal scorer Dusan Tadic (after 96 consecutive Eredivisie-matches for FC Groningen and FC Twente) out due to suspension and Roda JC hoping to league the gap with the three clubs three points above them, a feisty affair can be expected.
NEC Nijmegen will be looking to bounce back after four straight defeats facing AZ at home. AZ may be three points from the danger zone in fourteenth place but the cup finalists held on for a vital win in Almelo last time out. PEC Zwolle and RKC Waalwijk, who are also in that group just above the relegation spots, will both be eyeing the three points this weekend. Zwolle have a slightly better run-in but most certainly won’t be complacent this weekend.
Game Of The Week – Ajax v Heracles Almelo – 7th April, 1630 CET
Ajax won comprehensively last week against NEC Nijmegen and they will be looking to take the feeling from that game to the home game against Heracles. Feyenoord boss Ronald Koeman tipped Ajax for the title and Frank De Boer is not one to disagree: “I’ve been saying it for a few weeks. We’re doing well at the moment but that feeling can change from one moment to another” Ajax will be without Barcelona-winger Isaac Cuenca, but Ryan Babel is fit and ready to start. Like last season, Ajax are coming good when it really matters in the spring. Ryan Babel is fully fit and ready to bolster an offensive line-up, which boasts the likes of Sigthorsson, Fischer, Schöne, Eriksen and club captain Siem De Jong.
Heracles Almelo meanwhile need a win to keep up their hopes for a Europa League play-off spot. It is doubtful if Lerin Duarte will be fit for the match and with Thomas Bruns suspended, Heracles will be up against it. Manager Peter Bosz remains defiant: “We’ll play like we always play, in the way people know we do.(…) We know Ajax are title candidates, the outstanding ones perhaps, but we’re going there trying to win.” Heracles certainly have the players to cause Ajax some problems at the back but equally Ajax won’t be up against a packed defence. This should be a great game for the neutral.
Player to watch: Graziano Pellè
He was suspended and now he’s back. Italian striker Graziano Pellè has never been as prolific as this season and after Feyenoord lost to Heerenveen without him, he’ll be looking to reinvigorate his side’s title hopes. VVV have been porous at the back all season and with Pellè eager and demanding the same from his team mates, de Venlonaren could be in for a beating. ‘If we’re focused and hungry, we will win this match,’ the 26-year old told Feyenoord’s website. ‘We are Feyenoord and our stature as a club demands a win here.(…) I am only satisfied if we win each and every of our next six games. After that, we’ll see where we stand.’ Pellè is up for it, be warned.