The North Brabant side of Willem II Tilburg, are a well known team in the Netherlands mainly for their appearances in the promotion/relegation play-offs as they to and fro from the Eredivisie to the Eerste Divisie each year.
Despite never winning the Eredivisie, Willem II have had the guilty pleasure of having Jaap Stam, Marc Overmars and Sami Hyypia star for their side, with the latter making 100 appearances for the club.
Willem II were automatically promoted with 79 points last term finishing ahead of FC Dordrecht. They will be relying on their defensive captain Jordens Peters to keep them out of the relegation spot this season. The club will be managed by Jurgen Streppel, who has managed the club since 2011 and the boss is well known for his antics on the side line as he asks his players for nothing less than 101% on the pitch. The clubs colours have been adapted from the national flag, red, white and blue. The stadium, Koning Willem II holds over 14,000 people and getting bums on seats should not be a problem for the club this season.
The club has decided to loan in many players such as Goalkeeper Kostas Lamprou from Feyenoord, Thomas van Milert (NAC Breda) and brought in former Chelsea striker Ben Sahar from Hertha Berlin on a two year deal. That is just to name a few, as the club are preparing to increase the squad size considering it could be a long season ahead for the newly promoted side attempting to resist the drop zone.
There is no doubt in my mind that this group of players will fight until the very end to stay up and with the type of coach like Streppel he will expect the very best from his players on and off the pitch. I am sure that Streppel will try to build a fortress at home and with such a strongly supported team the opposition will not enjoy coming to Tilburg. Although, I believe picking up points on the road will be a challenge for this side and collecting points against mid-table sides will decide whether they will stay up or not. Many Dutch fans will agree, it is too hard to call this one.
The side from Dordrecht were founded 130 years ago and they play their matches in the GN Bouw Stadium. The club is known as the ‘Sheep Heads’ or in Dutch ‘SchapenKoppen’.
The team will be managed by the former Dutch international Ernie Brandts who earned 28 caps for the national team and scored five times, also played in the great 1978 World Cup team. The last time he managed in the Dutch top flight was with NAC Breda from 2006-2008.
Brandts brought great success to the side finishing third in the Eredivisie and making it to the semi-finals of the KNVB Beker. That season was NAC’s greatest season in the clubs history. His skills and well mannered defence should be enough to keep Dordrecht up this season.
Finishing second, Dordrecht ended the season six points behind the Tilburg side after earning 73 points over the season including 21 wins out of a possible 38. The team scored 83 times (the most goals scored by a team that season in the Eerste Divisie.) The team qualified through the Eredivisie play-offs, beating VVV-Venlo 5-2 on aggregate, Dordrecht then went on to beat Sparta Rotterdam on aggregate 5-3 in the third round and secured promotion to the Eredivisie. The last time the club has been in the top flight was in 1994, when they finished bottom of the league with only 20 points. That season was one to forget after finishing with a minus 27 goal difference, although that year, they were called ‘Dordrecht ’90’.
I boldly believe that Dordrecht will be able to avoid relegation this season and for several reasons. The team have proven that they can score goals and having such an experienced manager will also be a big advantage to younger players. Although the gap between both divisions is rather immense, I still think that Dordrecht will be able to hold their nerve and survive the season.
The smaller team of the two Eredivisie sides from Rotterdam, Excelsior also reached the top flight through the promotion/relegation play-offs. Excelsior have returned after two seasons in the Eerste Divisie by overcoming FC Den Bosch 5-2 on aggregate they then went on to win a 4-2 battle over Erwin Koeman’s RKC Waalwijk.
Excelsior play their matches in the Woudestein stadium, which will be the smallest stadium in the league, only being able to hold a little over 3,500 fans. Their matches will also be played on an artificial turf which should give them an advantage over their opposition when they play their home matches.
The side will be managed by Marinus Dijkhuizen and it is his first professional managerial job and with little experience I cannot see the club staying up this season. The club acts as a satellite club of Feyenoord, and the Eredivisie giants give Excelsior a payment and loan youth players. So far this transfer window, there has been little or no movement at the club.
I believe that the club will need to bring new players into the squad including a forward that will be a treat to the top defences in the league. If not I think they will struggle to stay in the top flight, unless they take their few chances on goal and defend bravely. If not then sadly I cannot see the side remaining in the Eredivisie.
A lack of experience in the side will also be a factor while they battle relegation but hopefully this team will be able to prove all the experts wrong and survive the season.
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