Eredivisie Week 6 Preview: Glad that’s over, back to the Eredivisie
After an international break, which saw the Netherlands national team secure qualification for next year’s World Cup in Brazil despite two rather tame performances, the Eredivisie returns to action this weekend.
The return to domestic football commences with high-flying PEC Zwolle visiting reigning Eredivisie champions Ajax. Ron Jans’ side remain unbeaten after five games and currently hold a two point lead over second-placed PSV. It has been a surprising start to the new campaign for the Blauwvingers. Having defeated Feyenoord, Heracles, NEC and Cambuur and then drawn with Utrecht, Zwolle have picked up some momentum early in the season, whereas Ajax are lacking it. Frank de Boer’s men currently trail the leaders by five points, having won two matches and drawn their last two. The Godenzonen are still getting used to life without star players Christian Eriksen and Toby Alderweireld, following their moves to Tottenham and Atletico Madrid, respectively. They are also without Siem de Jong, who is still recovering from a collapsed lung, while Daley Blind is subject to a late fitness test. Zwolle are also missing some key players. Youness Mokhtar recently left the club to join league rivals FC Twente, while goalkeeper Diederik Boer and key midfielder Jesper Drost are both ruled out as well.
It will be a tough game for both sides. PEC come into the game the brighter and more confident based on their recent performances, but Ajax have won each of the last six meetings against the Zwollenarenand the quality of their side is obvious. Lerin Duarte could come in to make his debut for the club should De Boer pick him over Thulani Serero.
A defeat for Zwolle leaves them at risk of being overtaken at the top of the table by Philip Cocu’s PSV. The Eindhoven side have a tough test against a young Twente side who have had a promising start to the new campaign. Georginio Wijnaldum returns from injury and 17-year-old starlet Zakaria Bakkali is also available after recovering from a hamstring injury, however, central defender Karim Rekik is out for four weeks and with Danish defender Zanka out, PSV will field another youngster to partner Jeffrey Bruma in Jorrit Hendrix (18).
Third placed Twente have a very young and exciting side. Quincy Promes (21), Luc Castaignos (20), Felipe Gutierrez (22), Shadrach Eghan (19) and Kyle Ebecilio(19) are all very talented players and are all expected to start, as is 24-year-old winger Dusan Tadic. With Tadic, FC Twente have the most creative player in the Eredivisie so far this season, racking up 3 goals, 4 assists and creating an astonishing 32 chances.
Twente are just one of six teams sitting on eight points after the first five games of the season. Two of those teams go head-to-head this weekend in a heated derby match. Marco van Basten’s Heerenveen host Erwin van de Looi’s Groningen on Sunday in the first Derby van het Noorden of the season. These two teams have had an identical opening to the campaign: starting with two wins followed by a defeat and then two draws. Van Basten will be delighted to welcome Alfred Finnbogason back to action after injury ruled him out of international duty this week. The striker is currently the league’s joint-top goalscorer alongside Graziano Pelle with six goals, however, the 24-year-old has two assists to his name. FC Groningen have been more positive so far than last season and with Richairo Zivkovic (17), they too have an attacking prodigy in their side, although he is still to come of age. According to Van de Looi, Zivkovic (2 goals so far) is edging towards a starting spot. Can this talent be the best thing to come out of Groningen since Arjen Robben?
Things are looking bright for Vitesse under new coach Peter Bosz so far this term and they can continue that good work this weekend in their match against ADO Den Haag. Maurice Steijn’s men have only three points so far, following their win over NAC Breda. The Arnhem side, on the other hand, have eight points so far and they possess a much stronger team than ADO, although six of those players actually belong to Chelsea. Newest addition is Christian Atsu, but as his paperwork is not sorted yet, Vitesse will have to make do with five of their loanees.
NEC are still looking for their first win of the season but they are unlikely to get off the mark this weekend as they welcome Feyenoord to the Goffertstadion. After a remarkably slow start to the campaign (three defeats), the Rotterdam side have turned things around with two straight victories. Star striker Graziano Pellè is finally off the mark and leading the lines with the confidence (and good looks) which was evident throughout last season, the best in his career to date. Ronald Koeman’s side, still recovering from that horrendous start, are desperate to pick up three points against the Nijmegen team to propel themselves into the top half of the table. Anton Janssen’s side will try their best to get something from this match, but the likelihood of that happening is not great for the side currently at the bottom of the table.
Another side looking to recover from a fairly underwhelming start to the season is Utrecht. With five points, they are looking to get back to winning ways and can do so this weekend by beating a mediocre RKC Waalwijk team. Newly-promoted Go Ahead Eagles are looking to continue their bright opening of the season when they travel to Alkmaar to meet AZ, while the other Eredivisie new boys Cambuur meet Heracles.
Roda v NAC Breda is probably the least inspiring game in the Dutch league this weekend. Roda are the obvious favourites as they have actually won so far this term. In fact, they’ve won two games. NAC, meanwhile, have two points and it’s no less than they deserve. This match is one between two teams expected to sit in the bottom half of the table come the end of the season, so we can’t expect too much from this game (now that I’ve said that, it will be a 5-5 stoater while all other games will be boring as sin).