What: Dutch Eredivisie
Who: FC Twente vs Ajax
When: Saturday 2nd March, 2013, at 19:45 UK Time
Where: De Grolsch Veste, Enschede, Netherlands
Twente Prepare For Life Post-McClaren
This has been an eventful week for 2010 champions Twente, who disposed of manager Steve McClaren, a man that was re-appointed last year for his second spell with the Dutch side. A disappointing stint culminating in last week’s defeat to Heerenveen left the Tukkers languishing in fifth place, behind Vitesse Arnhem, but still only six points off the leaders PSV Eindhoven. In fact, victory over champions Ajax in this match would take them to within a point of the Amsterdam giants.
The club will look for a permanent replacement for McClaren this summer and in the meanwhile Alfred Schreuder will take over as the interim coach. He will have a tough task reversing the current slide, which has seen the club go six games without a win.
There has been a perception that McClaren was too defensive in his approach and in an attack-minded Eredivisie there is some suggestion that the team have been left behind by their sharp shooting rivals. The next week will be crucial to determining whether Twente can work their way back into the title race or continue to drop off the pace. Home games with Ajax and then Vitesse could either revive their flagging hopes, or effectively end their chances of championship glory.
De Boer Looks To Cure Ajax Woes
The champions missed a fantastic chance to draw level at the top of the Eredivisie when they drew at home to Den Haag last weekend. A thumping defeat by AZ in midweek then ended their hopes of domestic cup glory, a week after Ajax exited the Europa League on penalties to Romanian outfit Steaua Bucharest. It all added up to a miserable February for the champions, who look to get their season back on track in Enschede and put pressure back on the leaders PSV Eindhoven.
Coach Frank de Boer did rest a number of key players, including Siem de Jong and Christian Eriksen for the AZ defeat, and his team are actually on the longest unbeaten run of any side in the Eredivisie – although that is still only four matches. Impressively, De Boer’s team have only lost twice in the Dutch top flight all season and under the former defender Ajax have never failed to become champions.
After the AZ defeat, De Boer admitted that there was now increased pressure on the club to perform well in the league. “There is nothing else”, he said as he acknowledged that Ajax must win the title for the season not to be considered a failure. To do that, he must find a way to get his team to convert their superb possession play into something tangible in the final third, which is where their problems have been in recent weeks.
Zwolle 1-1 FC Twente (10/02; Eredivisie)
FC Twente 1-1 Willem II (16/02; Eredivisie)
Heerenveen 2-1 FC Twente (23/02; Eredivisie)
Steaua Bucharest 2-0 Ajax [2-2 aggregate, 4-2 pens] (21/02; Europa League)
Ajax 1-1 ADO Den Haag (24/02; Eredivisie)
AZ Alkmaar 3-0 Ajax (27/02; Dutch Cup)
FC Twente: Robbert Schilder (doubt); Dmitry Bulykin (doubt); Wout Brama; Edson Braafheid; Nacer Chadli
Ajax: Ryan Babel
Players to watch
FC Twente – Dusan Tadic. It is no coincidence that Twente’s troubles of late, particularly scoring goals, have come at a time when Nacer Chadli is out injured. With Chadli still out for this, pressure to find the net will rest on the shoulders of Tadic, who has struck eleven times so far this season. The 24-year-old is versatile, able to play on either wing as well as up front, and his dribbling skill can be a potent weapon for Twente when he is on form.
Ajax – Siem de Jong: Ajax’s problem of late has been scoring goals and it is only natural that they will look to De Jong, their top scorer this season, to help solve their problems going forward; yet De Jong himself has struck just eight times. The club captain does have a habit of coming up with crucial goals however and his tactical flexibility, capable as he is of playing in both midfield and attack, can cause problems for the home team.
Ajax have scored twice on three of their last four visits to Enschede and have not lost to Twente in six encounters. Indeed it was Ajax who ended Twente’s then perfect start to the Eredivisie season with a 1-0 win seven games into the campaign back in the autumn. For Twente, unless they can turn the tables on Ajax, they will record their longest run without a win in the Eredivisie for over a decade.
Twente’s problems are clear to see – they simply cannot find the net regularly enough. Only RKC Waalwijk have scored fewer since the winter break. It is unlikely that Schreuder will make radical changes to the team and McClaren certainly can’t be accused of failing to leave behind solid foundations – they have the Eredivisie’s best defence. Much will rest on Tadic, Felipe Gutierrez and Luc Castaignos to produce some virtuoso brilliance going forward to pierce the Ajax rearguard.
The visitors will be concerned by their form in the last week, as against both Den Haag and AZ they enjoyed plenty of the ball but struggled to create clear cut chances. Ajax’s main attacking threats, such as Isaac Cuenca, Eriksen and De Jong, should all be well rested and that could give the visitors a crucial edge going forward. FC Twente 0-1 Ajax.
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