KO: Sunday 19th January 2014.
Eredivisie action returns after the festive break and 2014 kicks-off with an absolute belter at the Amsterdam Arena as two Dutch powerhouses compete for bragging rights once more.
The table suggests it should be three points for the hosts and the impetus should be with Frank de Boer’s side following their recent run of six straight league wins.
However, if recent history is anything to go by then fans should be prepared to expect the unexpected when these two meet.
Whatever happens it should be a fascinating affair.
Holland’s Biggest Rivalry
It might not be a city derby but this is easily the biggest match in Dutch football. The rivalry is known as ‘De Topper’ and pits the country’s two most successful clubs against one another.
Ajax, Holland’s number one side in terms of trophies, have won the Eredivisie crown on 32 occasions. Historic achievements have been mirrored by their recent accomplishments, with the club claiming the Dutch crown in each of the past three seasons; they are favourites to make it a fourth consecutive championship this term.
Meanwhile, PSV have 21 Eredivisie titles to their name with their most recent triumph coming in 2007-08. At that moment, Eindhoven were the dominant force in Dutch football – winning seven of the first eight league campaigns of the 21st century – but have since fallen away from the top boys in recent years.
On their day, though, PSV are certainly capable of causing an upset – as Ajax found out in September.
Nevertheless, Ajax are the superior outfit currently. As well as sitting top of Erediversie, some eleven points clear of seventh placed PSV, the Amsterdam club are through to the Champions League knockout stage once more.
Conversely, Eindhoven bowed out of Europe altogether by finishing third in their Europa League group and have failed to reach the Champions League knockout stages since 2007. In fact, even their last participation in the group stage of Europe’s elite competition was back in 2009-10.
As well as being the most successful club on the domestic scene, they are joint 5th on the list of European Cup winners. Only Liverpool, Bayern, Milan and Real Madrid have won Europe’s biggest prize and that is another source of pride for the current Dutch champions.
Both sides boast proud traditions and, come kick-off, the Amsterdam Arena will be buzzing.
Ajax v PSV Head to Head
De Topper is not only a rival between two clubs; it’s a battle between footballing philosophies.
Ajax set a precedent in how to play football and after over 50 years of success their approach to the game was adopted by a host of other clubs across Holland. In fact, sides across Europe began to borrow from the Ajax philosophy; PSV were not one of them.
Instead, the Eindhoven outfit – with financial assistance from the Philips Corporation – were able to acquire the services of finished products rather than follow the Ajax model of focusing on home-grown talent. These contrasting styles serve as driving force behind this bitter rival.
Whilst Ajax can boast a fuller trophy cabinet it is PSV who hold the advantage in this particular fixture. Of 115 Dutch League encounters, Eindhoven lead 48 wins to 44 – with 23 draws. Since 1993, the record reads 20-14-12 in the favour of PSV once more.
However, when playing in Amsterdam, Ajax have enjoyed a far greater record. In 57 matches, the home side have won 30 and lost just 19. That run includes last season’s 3-1 triumph for Frank de Boer’s men.
In September’s reverse fixture, PSV humiliated the visitors in a 4-0 demolition. That result will provide the home side with motive for revenge and the away team a source of confidence.
They might have contrasting views on a number of matters but what they do share is a common appetite for success – as well as the club colours of red and white.
With the addition 50,000 fans creating an intense atmosphere, it’s set to be an enthralling contest.
Both Phillip Cocu and Frank de Boer are legends of their respective clubs and that will undoubtedly have a positive effect on their players heading into this pivotal contest.
De Boer made over 400 appearances in an Ajax shirt in a playing spell that spanned over a decade prior to trading Holland for Spain courtesy of a ’99 switch to Barcelona.
In addition to playing for the club, and lifting the Champions League in 1995, he also managed the youth team before a spell as the assistant coach of Holland’s national team. De Boer took over as Ajax boss in 2010 and has led the club to three consecutive Eredivisie titles.
As a player, Phillip Cocu had two stints with PSV in which he made over 150 appearances and won four Erediversie winners medals as well as two Dutch Cups. Now head coach, he is trying to lead the club back to the summit of Dutch football and his vast experience will be a huge help to his inexperienced squad.
Ajax V PSV – The Key Men
Swiss midfielder Siem de Jong remains sidelined through injury and is joined on Ajax’s casualty list by 21-year-old defender Mike van de Hoorn. Meanwhile, Stijn Schaars is on the absentee list for PSV.
A return of 41 goals in 18 league outings signals an impressive showing from Ajax’s attacking unit and Frank de Boer has the enviable task of choosing from a number of talented players.
The emergence of 20-year-old midfielder Davy Klaasen has unquestionably had a positive influence on Ajax’s fortunes. The youngster has returned 7 goals from just 10 appearances this term and could be a great outlet for de Boer, whether from the start or as an impact sub.
Perhaps the most familiar name amongst Ajax’s squad is that of Bojan Krkic. The ex-Barcelona striker moved to Amsterdam this summer and the 23-year-old certainly has the potential to cause problems for the PSV defence. After struggling in Italy, the Spaniard is still trying to rediscover his best form and perhaps a goal in this colossal clash could kick-start his career in Holland.
Another reason for Ajax’s position at the Eredivisie summit is their defensive record. In a league notorious for goals, shipping just 17 in 18 matches is very good going and leaves de Boer’s men with the tightest defence in the division so far.
Having been sent off against AZ in August, Ricardo van Rhijn has since put in a number of superb performances at the back and has been instrumental to Ajax’s defensive success. Apart from the one match missed through suspension, the 22-year-old has started every game and even chipped in with 2 goals in the first half of the season; he could be pivotal to his side’s triumphs not only on Sunday but for the remainder of the campaign.
As Schaars is injured, Park Ji Sung could be an important figure of the PSV line-up.
The former Manchester United midfielder has only made 8 appearances for the club but is the only fit player over the age of 30 and his experience could make him the key in this pivotal clash. He did also score one of his two PSV goals in the reverse fixture earlier this season.
Dutch defender Jeffrey Bruma has been a consistent performer for PSV this campaign and may need to be at his best if the away side are to come away from the Amsterdam Arena with a result.
Chelsea finally let the defender depart Stamford Bridge on a permanent basis this summer, although they did install a ‘buy back’ clause, and Phillip Cocu has certainly benefited from the 22-year-old’s talent. Bruma has missed just one match this season, through suspension, and has been a catalyst for most of PSV’s good defensive work.
There are a number of top stars on display for both sides and the first goal could set the tone of the afternoon. It could be a classic.
Eredivisie Matchday 19 Fixtures
- AZ Alkmaar v NAC Breda
- FC Zwolle v Vitesse Arnhem
- RKC Waalwijk v Groningen
- Heerenveen v Roda JC
- NEC Nijmegen v ADO Den Haag
- Cambuur Leeuwarden v Go Ahead Eagles
- FC Utrecht v Feyenoord
- Ajax v PSV Eindhoven