Eredivisie Preview: Ajax look to press home title credentials in Der Klassieker
By Football News
The Eredivisie's most storied rivalry will have its latest instalment this weekend when Ajax and Feyenoord meet in Der Klassieker.
The Rotterdam club play host to Ajax on Sunday nine points off Frank de Boer's table-toppers, realistically needing a win to keep their title hopes alive with nine games to play.
Ajax, on the other hand, can take a huge step towards a fourth consecutive Eredivisie crown if they can win the 176th meeting between the clubs.
Indeed, it is the capital club who have enjoyed the better of the duo's recent encounters, winning 10 of the last 15 in all competitions, including the last three in a row, with Feyenoord tasting success only once.
De Boer will be wary, however, especially as he will be missing a host of key players with Viktor Fischer picking up a hamstring injury against AZ last week to join Lasse Schone (ankle), Nicolai Boilesen (hamstring) and Thulani Serero (groin) on the sidelines.
Feyenoord top scorer Graziano Pelle will be available after a potential one-match ban was suspended for a year.
After last Sunday's 2-2 draw at Twente, which saw Feyenoord throw away a two-goal lead before being pegged back in the 95th minute, Pelle left the field in a furious rage, kicking the dugout as well as camera equipment in the tunnel.
However, the 22-goal striker will feature against Ajax after Feyenoord paid the Dutch authorities (KNVB) a fine of €5,000.
Second-placed Twente and Vitesse in third remain in the hunt for at least a top-two place, but will hope Ajax slip to defeat, which can open the door for them when they face Utrecht and Roda JC respectively.
Behind the top four, the race for a spot in the UEFA Europa League play-off is heating up with almost all of the sides in the bottom half in with a chance of finishing in the top eight.
PSV and Heerenveen, fifth and sixth respectively, look comfortably placed ahead of weekend trips to Go Ahead Eagles and Heracles.
However, just eight points separate AZ in seventh and Waalwijk in 16th, and that gap could be reduced to a mere five when the sides' go head to head in Alkmaar on Sunday.
Elsewhere, Groningen host Cambuur, NAC Breda travel to Den Haag and Zwolle welcome NEC with all six sides harbouring equal European hopes and relegation fears.