Eredivisie Round 34 Preview: All is decided but the battle for Europe
Quite a lot has already been decided in the Eredivisie. Champions? Check. Second place? Kind of check. Relegation place? Check. Relegation play-off places? Check. Europa League play-off places? Check. Oh no, not check, that is one battle that still rages.
Ajax, the Eredivisie champions, will visit 7th placed FC Groningen and a win for the hosts would see them secure the third Europa League play-off spot. Although a guard of honour had been suggested by some, Groningen director Hans Nijland has insisted there will be none for the newly crowned champions. “It’s a beautiful tradition in England but we don’t have to copy everything they do,” he said. Frank de Boer has already announced his starting eleven with Babel and Boerrigter accompanying Sigthorsson up front, with Fischer and Schone out. The players with slight injury problems will all be left behind in Amsterdam and it will give Nicolai Boilesen, the young, talented Danish left back, who has been out through injury for well over a year, a chance to get some playing time under his belt as a substitute. Meanwhile, FC Groningen will come out all guns a-blazin’, with only Género Zeefuik out of all potential starters. FC Groningen can reach the Europa League play-offs too if they draw, as it would make it impossible for 9th place ADO Den Haag to catch them that way.
It would leave 8th place SC Heerenveen with a chance to eclipse them though and the Friezen have an away trip to Roda JC coming up. The Limburgers will end the competition 16th no matter what happens and will have to fight for survival in the relegation play-offs. Although Roda are rather low in the table, they have done pretty well at home, only losing three games in Kerkrade all season. Heerenveen will be looking to make that four without Filip Djuricic. The Serbian playmaker, who joins Benfica next season, is out with a broken rib and hope he’s fit again for the Europa League play-offs, should his side qualify.
ADO will be hoping Heerenveen will slip up and then seize on that opportunity by beating PEC Zwolle, another team with nothing left to play for. The Zwollenaren are safe and will be starting next season under the guidance of Ron Jans. ADO are on the same goal difference as Heerenveen and two points behind them, so a win of them and a draw or loss of Heerenveen will see ADO move past De Friezen.
The last ‘contender’ for a Europa League play-off spot would be AZ. The Alkmaarders are probably still drunk from celebrating their success winning the Dutch Cup and will be facing relegated Willem II in what is likely to be young starlet Adam Maher’s last match for ‘de Kaasboeren’. They could, if Heerenveen and ADO lose and drop points respectively, claim 8th place, but because they are playing Europa League football based on their Cup achievements, their spot would be taken by the team that finishes 9th.
Third place has not quite yet been decided, although the only difference between third and fourth is third have to play one round less of Europa League preliminaries. Feyenoord will play NAC Breda and a win should see them seal third place. Unless they win with 37-0 or more – in that case, second place is still possible. In that case, PSV would have to lose away to FC Twente, something that in itself isn’t so far-fetched especially considering the mental blow PSV suffered when they lost the cup final. Twente are eager to leapfrog FC Utrecht into fifth place, in order to play a ‘weaker’ team in the Europa League play-offs. Just for the record, a 37-0 win would improve the record score in the Eredivisie by a 26 goal margin, as the current record is 12-1. Some would say anything can be done when Italian striker Graziano Pellè (above right) is on the pitch, but surely, this would be a bridge too far.
Were the Feyenoorders to drop points, Vitesse could still steal third place and in order to do that they have to beat 17th placed VVV Venlo. It is likely to be Wilfried ‘Daddy Cool’ Bony’s last game for the Arnhemmers and the future at the club of Chelsea-loanees Gael Kakuta, Tomas Kalas and Patrick Van Aanholt as well as that of Vitesse supertalent Marco Van Ginkel is unclear. Even the manager Fred Rutten is yet to resolve his future, as he still hasn’t signed a contract extension.
Surprise package FC Utrecht will be looking to end the regular season on a high before heading into the Europa League play-offs and a win would see them finish the season in fifth. If they would lose or draw, FC Twente could still get past them. The opponent will be Heracles Almelo, one of Eredivisie’s most entertaining and gung-ho sides. Only four have scored more, only two have conceded more. They’re in 11th place with nothing left to play for but pride. With Brazilian striker Everton leaving and some other players in doubt about their future at the club, they will surely like to shine for one last time in the black and white shirt. An imaginative black and white shirt were they to play in their away kit, but still.
Last game (although they do all start at the same time, Sunday 1430 CET) is one of next to no relevance. NEC will welcome RKC Waalwijk to their ground for a bit of Sunday afternoon relaxation football. In theory, NEC can still end the season as 9th, which will give them nothing but a good feeling. RKC can go as high as 13th were they to beat NEC. For the rest, I have nothing to say about this match.
At 1630 CET, when all games are done, the regular season is over, but don’t worry, we’ve got Europa League play-offs and relegation play-offs to look forward to over the next couple of weeks.