Dutch Eredivisie Preview, Week 4: Jozy Altidore & AZ Looking For Another Win, Heerenveen At Bottom

ARNHEM, NETHERLANDS - JULY 26: Tim Cornelisse of FC Twente in action during the Champions League third qualifying round between FC Twente and FC Vaslui at Gelredome on July 26, 2011 in Arnhem, Netherlands. (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)

There may be a handful of teams in the hunt to challenge Ajax and Twente, but all have to prove their worth, meanwhile Heerenveen continue to embarrass as they sit at the bottom of the table

A win on Friday has Dutch Eredivisie favorites Ajax back atop the league, but last week's surprising draw against VVV Venlo has them in a battle with Twente, who can move back into first place with a win this weekend. As more time goes on, it looks more and more like the preseason predictions will come to fruition with Ajax and Twente battling it out for the Eredivisie title. That doesn't mean other teams won't give the two favorites a run for their money though.

Feyenoord sits just three points back of Ajax and can move even this weekend, while both AZ Alkmaar and PSV Eindhoven are only four points behind the leaders from Amsterdam. Vitesse is also in the pack, but they lost to Ajax on Friday. While Feyernoord, AZ and PSV are all in the hunt, none have looked overly impressive. Whether it be shaky performances against bottom table teams or failing to play well when tested against quality teams, the chasers have had their problems. Unless they have another gear to turn it onto, Ajax and Twente are likely to start putting some distance between themselves and the rest.

FC Groningen vs. AZ Alkmaar

Sunday, 8:30 am ET

After a fourth place finish last year, AZ was hoping to move up this season and they have themselves in a position to do it. They are playing well, led by the red hot Jozy Altidore, who has five goals since moving to Alkmaar in the summer. As good as AZ may have looked at times this season, they failed in their only real test of the season against Twente when they were completely overwhelmed. AZ's next decent test will be in a month when they take on Feyenoord. Until then, they will have to keep picking up points, but also continue to improve or be stuck in the Europa League spot they were in last year.

This weekend's match up against a solid Groningen side won't be a walkover, especially away from home. Tim Matavz continues to tear apart the Eredivisie with three more goals this season after bagging 20 a year ago. Leandro Bacuna has three goals of his own this year as he continues to develop into a fantastic midfielder. With those two leading the attack, AZ's defense will be under threat from the opening whistle. Groningen's defense is leaky so AZ will have chances to score, but the question is whether their defense can hold up.

With the way Altidore is playing, he should be able to bully around a weak Groningen defense. The home side will give up goals in this match and as good as Matavz is, it's unlikely that he has enough in him to carry a team that won't be able to stifle or even slow down AZ.

Feyenoord Rotterdam vs. Heerenveen

Sunday, 8:30 am ET

Who would have guessed that Heerenveen would be at the bottom of the Eredivisie? After three matches they are on just one point and have allowed 14 goals. In Heerenveen's defense, they have had to play both Ajax and Twente already so that will put a dent in any team's record, but a pair of 5-1 losses is a little much for any team. Add in just a draw against NEC and Heerenveen have been anything but impressive.

Many are surprised that Feyenoord are near the top of the table, but maybe it shouldn't be much of a surprised considering their schedule. They have yet to play a top team and Heerenveen is not a top team so they're in a good position to stay near the top of the table. In addition to weak competition, Feyenoord has thrived thanks to a stingy defense. They've allowed just one goal this season as the backline has performed fantastically, led by Ron Vlaar, who is back to playing at a top level now that his injury woes are behind him.

Feyenoord may not be as good as their record indicates. In fact, there is now ay they are as good as their record indicates, but at home against a floundering Heerenveen side whose defense has been a sieve they are a good bet for three points.

Other Matches

RKC Waalwijk vs. NAC Breda - 12:45 pm ET

NEC Nijmegen vs. Heracles - 1:45 pm ET

Twente Enschede vs. VVV Venlo - 1:45 pm ET

FC Utrecht vs. Roda JC - 2:45 pm ET

De Graafschap vs. ADO Den Haag - Sunday, 6:30 am ET

PSV Eindhoven vs. Excelsior - Sunday, 10:30 am

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