The Dutch Eredivisie isn't known for parity. With Ajax and PSV Eindhoven, and the occasional challenge from Twente, Feyenoord or AZ Alkmaar, the league is basically a two-team race. Even when other teams get involved, though, history says that there won't be a ton of teams in contention for the title. Well, this season has no care for history, because as we head into the 24th round of matches, six teams can legitimately be called in the title race.
PSV leads the league, but they are followed by AZ Almaar, Twente, Heerenveen, Ajax and Feyenoord, giving the league a top six that is separated by just seven points. When teams are that tightly packed together, every match could be the one that puts you right there near the top or facing a steep climb to get back in the race. When you play a fellow top six team, as PSV and Twente do this week, it really matters. It also makes things very confusing.
Twente comes into the weekend in third place and trailing PSV by just three points. They also have a better goal difference, so if they win at the Philips Stadion then they will move to the top of the table. Of course, that is assuming second place AZ don't win, because if they do and Twente follows suit, then the squad for Alkmaar will go to the top of table.
There is also the race for second place and the final Champions League spot, which AZ currently holds, but if they lose and Twente win or draw, AZ will lose that spot. An AZ loss and a Heerenveen or Ajax win would also move those teams ahead of AZ. At that point, there are the draws ... this is confusing.
Let's wait until the last couple matches before we try to figure out the table. There is a top six. They are good. They can all finish anywhere between one and six. That is all we need to know for now.
PSV Eindhoven vs. FC Twente
Sunday, 3/4, 16:30 CET/10:30 ET
Expect goals. PSV leads the league with 60 goals and Twente are right on their heels with 59 of their own and the goals are coming from the stars. Luuk de Jong has 19 goals for Twente and Dries Mertens, Tim Matavz and Ola Toivonen have combined for 31 goals to lead PSV's attack as the big names have lived up to their billing in the first two-thirds on the season.
That presents the defenses with quite the problem, most notably Twente's because PSV's attack is almost two times as good at home as it is away. Luckily, Twente has the best away defense in the league. The ever-dependable Peter Wisgerhof anchors the back line and Douglas partners with him, giving them two very good, physical centerbacks. That will allow Twente to give Matavz a tough time, but Mertens out wide will be a whole other story, and even if the defense can hold him off there are the late runs of Toivonen to deal with.
If Twente can figure out a way to contain the PSV attack, they'll have a chance because de Jong will torture the PSV defense, just as he did in their 2-2 draw earlier this season. All said, PSV still has the edge and that is especially true at home, but Twente can hold their own in a shootout.
Feyenoord Rotterdam vs. FC Groningen
Sunday, 3/4, 14:30 CET/8:30 ET
England better get ready for John Guidetti, but first Groningen better get ready for him. The Swedish striker on loan from Manchester City had 16 goals on the year. Oh, and he's just 19 year old. Groningen have nothing remotely like that. In fact, they're barely even good. They may look nice and dandy at seventh on the table, but with a minus seven goal difference and nothing really outstanding to speak of, you would have to chalk their place in the table up to luck. Luck will not travel to Rotterdam.
ADO Den Haag vs. Heerenveen
Saturday, 3/3, 18:45 CET/12:45 ET
Quick, guess who the Eredivisie's top scorer is? Give up? It is Heerenveen's Bas Dost, who has racked up 20 on the year. It's okay, he may be a Netherlands youth national team guy, but he hadn't really shone until this season, so you're not expected to know him, at least not yet. A really good way to boost your goal scoring to play one of the worst teams in the league. Dost, I present to you ADO.
Rest of the schedule:
RKC Waalwijk vs. Excelsior - Saturday, 19:45 CET/1:45 ET
VVV Venlo vs. NAC Breda - Saturday, 19:45 CET/1:45 ET
AZ Alkmaar vs. SC Heracles Almelo - Saturday, 20:45 CET/2:45 ET
Vitesse Arnhem vs. De Graafschap - Sunday, 12:30 CET/6:30 ET
Ajax Amsterdam vs. Roda JC Kerkrade - Sunday, 14:30 CET/8:30 ET
FC Utrecht vs. NEC Nijmegen - Sunday, 14:30 CET/8:30 ET