Eredivisie Week 17 Preview: Five things to look out for
Heerenveen to come out on top against Zwolle
The first match of this Eredivisie weekend will see PEC Zwolle take on SC Heerenveen in a mid-table clash. The season started quite promising for both of these teams. Heerenveen’s counter attacking style, powered by Alfed Finnbogason’s finishing and Hakem Ziyech’s passing, worked very well and the Frisians lost just one of their first eight league matches, winning four. Zwolle raced to the top spot in the early stages. They surprisingly won their first four fixtures of the season, even leading some journalists to speculate on a potential title run for Ron Jans’ team.
Unfortunately for both of these teams, their form has dipped considerably. Heerenveen have been dropping points left and right, losing four of their last eight, a run which included a defeat to relegation candidates NEC Nijmegen. Meanwhile, Zwolle followed up their four game winning streak with another, considerably less impressive stretch in which they managed to win just one out of their next 12 league matches. This bad form culminated in an embarrassing 4-1 defeat to minnows Go Ahead Eagles last week and has left them in 9th place.
Interestingly, Zwolle and Heerenveen have both ridden their luck in the early stages, but in opposite ways. If Heerenveen got a shot on target, it went in. Meanwhile, no matter what happened, Zwolle wouldn’t concede. That they would crash in the fashion they did shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Zwolle conceded four goals last weekend and they still have the highest save percentage in the league.
It looks like both clubs are now ranked about where they belong. Of course, this is the Eredivisie and logic doesn’t really apply here. A win will send either club into the top five for a while and, while it will be a close game, Heerenveen look the team most likely to do so with the attacking potency of Finnbogason, Ziyech, Bilal Basacikoglu and Rajiv Van La Parra.
PSV to fall 16 points behind
The winter break can’t come quickly enough for Phillip Cocu’s PSV. The only positive for the Eindhovenaren at this very moment is that very soon they will have a four week break from the torturous hell that the football field is to them.
They have won only one of their last 12 games in all competitions and incredibly crashed out of the Europa League group stage when all they needed was a point from their final game to progress. IF anyone needs a break, it’s PSV.
However, before they can take that month away and get as much mental therapy as they possibly can, they have to play two more games, the first of which comes this weekend against Utrecht.
Jan Wouters’ team currently sit four points above PSV and, while Cocu’s side can’t buy a win these days, Utrecht have won each of their last three league matches. Furthermore, Utrecht are unbeaten at home so far this season, whereas PSV have lose each of their last five.
Utrecht are without Willem Janssen, Cedric van der Gun, Johan Martensson and Jacob Mulenga, but they look more than capable of overcoming a PSV side which has just seen key midfielder Stijn Schaars added to an injury list which already contained Georginio Wijnaldum and Tim Matavz.
With PSV suffering so much, they will want to get through this game and then next week’s with ADO Den Haag before they can take some time off to regroup and prepare to start again following the turn of the year.
The top four to move further ahead of the pack
The Eredivisie is certainly one of the most competitive and tightest leagues on the continent at the moment as only ten points separate the top eight teams after 16 weeks.
This season, it was made incredibly interesting early on as it appeared no one wanted to take charge of the league as the likes of Ajax, PSV, Feyenoord, AZ, Twente and Vitesse struggled with inconsistency.
Now, however, Vitesse, Ajax and Twente have gained some momentum and are tightly packed together at the top, with Feyenoord not too far behind.
It looks like the four teams will remain close-knit for at least one more week as they each have winnable matches in the penultimate matchday of 2013.
Vitesse, who have won each of their last five league games, should be able to overcome a NAC Breda side which is without Danny Verbeek and Rydell Poepon. Twente have a more than manageable game against Go Ahead Eagles on Saturday night while Ajax, on a four game win-streak and looking to recover from their midweek devastation, can be confident of disposing of Cambuur in Leeuwarden. Of the top four, Feyenoord have the toughest task as they play fifth placed Groningen, but the inconsistency of Erwin van de Looi’s team has seen them win only one of their last six matches. Ronald Koeman’s charges are in slightly better form and have overall a stronger squad and have enough in them to open the gap between the two teams.
ADO Den Haag to pull away from the relegation playoff spots
Maurice Steijn’s ADO have picked up four points from their last two games, their best run of results so far this season. As a result of such inconsistency they sit just fourth bottom, one point above Cambuur, who are in the final relegation playoff spot.
On Saturday, they can edge further away from the danger zone as they host second bottom RKC Waalwijk. While ADO are missing Danny Holla and Kevin Janssen, they have enough to cover for their absences.
RKC, on the other hand, are without Romeo Castelen, Mart Liede and Damiano Schet. Only three weeks have passed since Erwin Koeman’s team beat Feyenoord in the Mandemakers Stadion, but they have been atrocious sometimes this season, especially away from home and look set to crumble under the challenge of ADO.
AZ to bounce back against Heracles
Having lost their last two matches and drawn the prior two, AZ are in their worst run since Dick Advocaat returned to the hot-seat.
The defeats to Twente and NEC Nijmegen will have hurt the Alkmaar side severely and they will be desperate to bounce back with a win to ensure they remain hot on the heels of the leading sides.
Advocaat rested a lot of his key players for their Europa League match on Thursday against PAOK and have a blatantly stronger and fitter squad than Heracles.
The likes of Johann Berg Gudmundsson, Aron Johannsson and Roy Beerens should prove too much for the Heracles backline, while Mark Uth, Mikhail Rosheuvel and Bryan Linssen should be kept quiet by the likes of Jeffrey Gouweleeuw and Jan Wouters.
The Alkmaar side are in danger of falling 12 points behind Vitesse and they will do everything they can to make sure that doesn’t happen.