Ajax travel to Feyenoord on Sunday in one of the biggest Eredivisie games of the season.
Already we have witnessed the remarkable rise of Feyenoord to the top of Dutch football, while Ajax and rivals Eindhoven desperately scramble to maintain the pace.
Feyenoord have got off to a blistering start with a 100 per cent record, while the Lancieri have stumbled slightly and linger behind in the title race.
So who will win this clash in Amsterdam? Here are three big factors that could decide the result…
Confidence Against The Big Boys
Feyenoord have no problem facing title rivals and grabbing three points. That was evident in their 1-0 win at Eindhoven back in September. The Ajax players may want to watch that video back to pinpoint Feyenoord’s strengths. Their defence is rock solid but crucially the attack has been clinical so far this season. Striker Nicolai Jørgensen acts as a focal point when going direct, while Jens Toornstra and Steven Berghuis provide the width.
Ajax have a reasonably compact defence this season but had kept just four clean sheets in 14 games before the international break. They will be expected to take the game to Feyenoord but maybe their best option is to try and stifle the hosts in midfield and knock the confidence out of them.
Don’t Expect Goals
While Ajax have a fairly frugal defence, Feyenoord’s is positively mean. By the international break only Excelsior and ADO had scored against them in the Eredivisie. Centre-backs Jan-Arie van der Heijden and Eric Botteghin have no problem batting crosses away all day and that solidity is backed up by a safe goalkeeper in Brad Jones.
Can Ajax break down Feyenoord? To their credit the Lancieri are scoring regularly and have a number of players getting in on the action — they’re not reliant on one man. Indeed, with Feyenoord’s defensive solidity Ajax’s best chance of a goal may come from distance in the midfield. Expect Lasse Schone to have the odd potshot from around the area, as well as Hakim Ziyech if he gets within range.
However, don’t expect too many goals here on what will likely be a cagey affair in Rotterdam.
Feyenoord V Ajax Head To Head
Feyenoord’s recent rise to the top of the Eredivisie is evident in their head-to-head record with Ajax. As is clear to see, the Lancieri have taken a far greater share of the recent results between the two. Ajax are unbeaten in their last eight games with Feyenoord (W5 D3) since a 4-2 drubbing in Rotterdam in January 2012.
Since then the scores have been tight, with only one result exceeding a two-goal winning margin. We can probably expect the same again and a draw at 3.60 is a good shout here. Feyenoord will be happy with the point and Ajax will be pleased not to lose away to the league leaders.
Other Eredivisie Fixtures
Of course all the attention is on Feyenoord v Ajax this weekend but there are a couple of other fixtures to keep an eye on. Roda desperately require a win from somewhere and they could profit against a plummeting ADO in Kerkrade.
Eindhoven will be looking to bag three points under the radar with a home tie against Sparta, while Excelsior should have no problem dispatching lowly Zwolle on Friday night in Rotterdam.