IT’S BACK! The Eredivisie returns this weekend and it should prove to be a explosive set of games starting with ‘The Derby of the East’ when FC Twente host Heracles on Friday evening, and accumlating on Sunday afternoon with De Klassieker, Ajax vs. PSV Eindhoven.
Here’s Will Burns with a full preview of the weekend’s action.
Friday 17th January
FC TWENTE vs. HERACLES – 19:00
The opening Eredivisie match of 2014 is the ‘Derby of the East’ with Jan de Jonge’s Heracles making the short 30km drive to Enschede to face Michel Jansen’s FC Twente.
Twente sit in third place just three points behind leaders Ajax and Vitesse, and are on a seven game unbeaten streak, losing last to ADO in a close 3-2 affair back on October 26th. The trio of Dusan Tadic, Luc Castaignos and Quincy Promes are on fire this season, scoring 25 of the teams 41 goals. Jansen has no real injury problems, except for ten-goal Castaignos is doubtful with a mouth injury.
Heracles themselves have not tasted defeat for four games, including a fantastic hard-fought 2-2 draw at home to Vitesse in their last game. De Jonge heads into Friday with a lot of injury doubts, with star man Bryan Linssen, scored twice against Vitesse, struggling to get fit with a calf problem. On top of Linssen, central midfield duo Simon Cziommer (hip) and Ben Rienstra (flu) are both fighting against the clock to gain fitness.
If all three are missing, I doubt Heracles would have any chance of going to Twente and getting anything for their troubles. Twente have not lost a home game since May 2013, and a win for ‘The Pride of the East’ will put a little pressure on the top two, and give Twente fans hopes of clinching their second Eredivisie championship.
BURNS’ BEST BET: Twente to win by 2 goals (7/4 – William Hill)
Saturday 18th January
AZ ALKMAAR vs. NAC BREDA – 17:45
AZ head coach Dick Advocaat lost a key player in Maarten Martens this week, in a two-year deal to PAOK Salonika – the Belgian, with 10 assists this season, was due to sign for the Greek side in the summer, but both parties decided to bring the transfer forward.
Advocaat’s side will be hoping their fortunes change this year, as they lost their last four games of 2013, and only picking up two points in their last six, which has caused them to drop to eighth in the division. Their opponents, NAC Breda sit in 12th, only two points adrift, and could jump up to eighth with a win.
NAC are in poor form away from home, currently on a five-game losing streak and will be hoping to end that on Saturday. Joey Suk misses out due to suspension after being sent off in a 4-0 defeat away to Ajax in early December. The Yellow Army won last time out 1-0 while hosting SC Cambuur, and defeated FC Groningen by the same scoreline last weekend in a friendly game.
BURNS’ BEST BET: Draw (3/1 – Betfair)
RKC WAALWIJK vs. FC GRONINGEN – 18:45
The depleted RKC Waalwijk will find it tough against FC Groningen. First choice goalkeeper Jan Seda will be missing with an ankle injury, so look for Arjan van Dijk to cover for the Czech. Also on the treatment table is Romeo Castelen (knee) and Mart Lieder (cruicate ligament).
The sixth placed Groningen will be without the suspended Stefano Magnasco for collecting yellow cards for fun. The last time out, Groningen smashed five past NEC Nijmegen in a 5-2 win, with Michael de Leeuw notching a hat-trick.
If you’re having a flutter over the weekend, I’m suggesting you add Groningen to your accumulator. Although, NAC are unbeaten in their last four home games, and Groningen have only won one game away from home from the last nine, I feel the away side will come away the victors with the superior talent on show.
BURNS’ BEST BET: FC Groningen to win (31/20 – BetVictor)
PEC ZWOLLE vs. VITESSE – 18:45
Vitesse are in a great position to win their first ever Eredivisie title and bringing in loanees Zakaria Labyad (Sporting Lisbon) and Bertrand Traoré (Chelsea) is only helping the cause.
Look for Vitesse to easily win this game, especially since PEC Zwolle are without Darryl Lachman, their star central defender, with a hamstring problem. Also, earlier this week, Zwolle sold their starting left-back Rochdi Achenteh to their opponents on Saturday, as the defender was in the last six months of his contract. Labyad and Traoré could make their debuts, but it’s hard to see Achenteh to be chosen ahead of the excellent Patrick van Aanholt on the left side of defence.
Zwolle, will hope Kamohelo Mokotjo, Jesper Drost and Fred Benson are on form to hit 2014 off to a good start, but it’s hard to see the makeshift defence being able to halt the Vitesse attack, especially when young Brazilian Lucas Piazón was firing on all cylinders before the winter break.
BURNS’ BEST BET: Vitesse to win HT/FT (2/1 – BetVictor)
HEERENVEEN vs. RODA JC – 19:45
Jon Dahl Tomasson returns to Heerenveen in his debut as Roda’s head coach, but do not except it to be a successful first appearance on the sideline for the Dane. Roda have a weak side spiralling down to the bottom of the standings, Tomasson will have to strengthen the side for any hopes of avoiding relegation trouble.
I struggle to see Roda’s back line be able to cope with the creativity of Hakim Ziyech, the speed of Rajiv van la Parra and the goalscoring instincts of Icelandic hitman Alfred Finnbogason.
Tomasson will be without Roda’s star man of the half-season so far, Mark-Jan Fledderus with a groin injury, and Krisztian Nemeth is doubtful (toe).
With Finbogason already netted 17 times in 15 games, look for the Iceland international to add to his tally in Saturday’s late game and also expect other goals. The previous fixture back in September finished a 3-3 draw,
BURNS’ BEST BET: Finnbogason to score 2 or more (13/8 – Bet365)
Click here for a preview of Sunday’s games.
Click the name above to follow Will on Twitter.