With just seven games to go in a thrilling Eredivisie campaign, champions PSV host great rivals Ajax on Sunday in what is likely to be the crucial fixture in deciding the course of Dutch football’s biggest prize.
Just one point separates the top two heading into this intense battle at the Philips Stadion and both teams will be eager to get one over their arch rivals, especially after drawing their respective games last weekend (PSV against Heerenveen and Ajax against NEC). The victor will claim far more than just bragging rights, though. In truth, it should help them seal the title.
Aside from the fact this game will dictate the leader at such a late stage in the season, victory would provide a huge psychological edge. If Philip Cocu’s men do the business, it would put them four clear with just 18 points (six games) to play for- a very handy cushion indeed. Meanwhile, an away win for Ajax would reinstall the belief amongst Frank de Boer’s former champions. Whatever happens, the significance of this contest cannot be emphasised enough.
PSV have won 20 of their 27 games so far in the league, drawing six with the solitary loss coming against Heracles back in September. Ajax have also won 20, but have lost two- and one of those two losses was at home at the Amsterdam Arena to PSV.
The de Topper rivals have been the best Dutch sides by a country mile this season. It’s clearly been a two horse race- third-placed AZ are 19 points adrift of the top two. The quality of football in Eindhoven and Amsterdam has been breathtaking at times, particularly in the attacking third. Between them, the sides have scored 134 league goals in 2015/16, and both clubs boast inspirational figures up top. While Ajax’s Polish forward Arkadiusz Milik has netted an impressive 15, PSV’s Luuk de Jong leads the Eredivisie scoring charts with an incredible 19 goals.
Dutch betting experts onlinewedden.com believe that this battle could be the key. They told us: “PSV and Ajax each have their weaknesses, but Milik and De Jong have been consistent forces to spearhead their respective sides throughout an enthralling battle so far. Both enter Sunday’s showdown having found the target last weekend too, and either man could go on to be the matchwinner. If we were forced to pick, we’d go with the PSV talisman.”
De Jong certainly isn’t PSV’s only source of inspiration. The 26-year-old’s absence in October allowed fellow striker Gaston Pereiro to steal the headlines with a brace at the Amsterdam Arena and the Uruguayan would love to see more of the same here. Unfortunately for the 20-year-old, he has been more accustomed to joining the action late on in recent weeks. Nevertheless, those memories are sure to be fresh in the memory of Jasper Cillessen and the Ajax defence.
PSV are unbeaten on home soil this season, registering 31 goals and 10 wins from 13. They also proved themselves to be a very capable outfit against some of Europe’s toughest opponents during their Champions League campaign (Manchester United will testify to that!) and certainly have the edge over Ajax. If Cocu’s men perform to their potential, they’ve every chance of giving their title defence a huge boost by beating their fiercest rivals.
Ajax shouldn’t be ruled out completely, though. De Boer’s men will be hungry after surrendering their crown for the first time in five years last season. Ajax are also the best defensive team in the Eredivisie this season- only 18 conceded from 27 games so far. There is also the small matter of PSV having to play a tough Champions League knockout fixture against Atletico Madrid in midweek before de Topper. Moreover, if the manager is to leave his post as many predict, he’d love to finish his tenure in Amsterdam on a high. Whatever happens, it should be a thrilling battle. One way or the other it could go a long way to deciding who’ll be lifting the trophy on the 8th of May.
PSV V Ajax
20 March, 2016, 15:45 UK Kickoff. Philips Stadion, Eindhoven