Go Ahead Eagles v Willem II
Go Ahead Eagles have only lost once in their last six Eredivisie games. Their recent run has seen them all but secure their Eredivisie safety for next season. All three promoted sides are comfortably in mid-table now.
Last time, Luuk Brouwers wasn’t available for the 1-0 win at Zwolle in the Overijssel derby. However, the midfielder, who has notched eight goals from central midfield this season, was not missed as the Eagles nicked a last-minute victory.
What effect has Kevin Hofland had since taking charge of Willem II? So far, he has overseen a 2-2 draw with AZ and a 2-0 defeat to Feyenoord. Interestingly, in both games, the Tilburgers defended very deeply, which in some ways worked. They will need to be more open as they aim for points in Deventer.
The style that both of these sides play suggest to me that it is unlikely to contain many goals. I think the home side will dictate lots of the play and the visitors will continue to struggle
FC Utrecht v Fortuna Sittard
Sadly for Fortuna fans, lately their side have seemingly got worse – not better – in the vital relegation scrap. The Sittard side are right in it, sitting 17th (second from bottom and in the second automatic relegation berth). They have lost four of their last five, and in their last defeat (a 0-2 home loss to Heracles), they played out a passive first half before defensive errors cost them the game.
Utrecht are seventh. They are set to face their second game with Rick Kruys as interim head coach. Dick Advocaat is in place as an advisery role (away from media). Whilst there is little to play for for Utrecht in the run-up to the end-of-season play-offs, they will want to find some rhythm with the new coach.
Fortuna will have to silence the Utrecht forwards if they are to get a result. I pick that out because away from home they will have little of the ball and I don’t think their defenders are solid enough to keep out the pace and dynamism of Utrecht who remain a talented side despite their below-par season. That’s why I’m predicting a home win (albeit not a large one).
Ajax v Sparta Rotterdam
Usually, this would be a very straightforward prediction to make, but some recent events have put a seed of doubt in my mind. Ultimately, yes, this will most likely be a roomy home victory.
Ajax prided themselves on an impeccable record of goals conceded for the first half of the season. They have, however, only kept one clean sheet in eight now. This coincided chiefly with Marc Overmars’s difficult departure from the club, and André Onana replacing the injured Remko Pasveer in the Ajax goal. Onana has certainly made some mistakes since his re-introduction into the side. Once so dependable and impressive, the year out of football has clearly impacted the Cameroonian. The poor form has cost Ajax their Champions League run and kept the title race alive when Ajax could have been out of sight by now.
My other apprehension was due to Sparta’s revival. They have kept games tighter which means scoring once is enough to get a draw or a win.
All that said, Sparta will rarely be able to step over the half-way line, such will be their dependency on defending. Therefore, I fancy Ajax may actually keep a clean sheet.
NEC Nijmegen v FC Twente
Ninth-placed NEC will be a tough test for European hopefuls FC Twente. A week ago, NEC won an entertaining, end-to-end game with fellow mid-table side Cambuur.
Speaking of ‘end-to-end’, how about Twente’s 3-3 draw with PSV? Possibly the match of the season, but Twente’s supporters will be ruing missed chances to score four or five when PSV were flailing defensively in the first half. More and more, the Tukkers have an increased attacking threat – I hope Ron Jans can keep the majority of this team together for the next campaign given how well they have been playing as a unit.
Normally, Jans’s men are solid: three clean sheets in a row before the PSV match. Twente have some goals in the side, and NEC seem to be playing more freely lately – not as regimented as they were the goals that following a 5-0 drubbing to Ajax at the very beginning of the season. In a game that is difficult to call, that’s why I’m going with over 2.5 goals.
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