There is a three-team title goldrush in the Eredivisie this season which will continue this weekend with the eye-catching battle of heavyweights at De Kuip on Sunday. Feyenoord will take on PSV at home where they have only dropped two points this season while PSV have only lost once this season. Both teams sought the sun and heat of Southern Europe as PSV travelled to Malta and Feyenoord to Portugal in order to prepare for the second-half of the season where they have to hit the ground running.
Giovani Van Bronchorst has led Feyenoord to their best league start in 7 years as his team find themselves third, five points behind Ajax. The manager was treated like a kid in a candy store during the summer as a host of experienced Eredivisie players were brought in allowing him to create a blend of youth and experience. The front three of Elia, Kramer and Kuyt best exemplifies this as they have been brilliant in the first half of the season. Van Bronchorst has set lofty ambitions for his side this season.
“Our goal continues to be a direct placement for European football, but we want more. Well, for that we will need to be better, especially in away games than during the first half of the season,” said the Feyenoord manager to Voetbal International. Feyenoord have dropped most of their points away which has raised doubts about their credibility as title contenders. Their last match was a 3-1 loss to NEC where they ended the first half 1-0 ahead but some cataclysmic defending on the counter meant they went into the winter break with a dark cloud looming over their heads.
In the dying minutes of the game, a nasty lunge by Karim El-Ahmadi meant he was a recipient of a yellow which resulted in a suspension rendering him unavailable for this match. Tonny Vilhena will start in a match where he can stake a claim for a starting position after a torrid season and a half spent on the periphery. His physical altercation with Michel Nelom garnered some unwanted attention for the youngster who up till now has been brilliant in the meagre amount of time he has spent on the pitch. He has three goals and two assists this season as Feyenoord hope that his gritty, hardworking nature and magic wand of a left foot will help unlock the pockets of space in the PSV defence.
Youngster Sven Van Beek ended his 2015 on a horrible note with a poor excuse for a header back to his keeper, reminiscent of Memphis Depay’s against Stoke, which led to an Anthony Limbombe goal against NEC. He needs to find some consistency in his game if he is to build on his immense potential and lend a helping hand to Feyenoord in their title charge. Captain and Feyenoord top scorer Dirk Kuyt will have to shoulder some responsibility as he will look to add to his tally of 13 goals this season.
PSV will be without maruading left-back Jetro Willems who is on a path to find full fitness as he joined PSV on their trip to Malta and played 60 minutes against another team made of PSV players. The returns of Maxime Lestienne and Luciano Narsingh mean that Phillip Cocu is spolied for choice up top as he picks attackers to flank Luuk De Jong, who leads the Eredivisie scoring charts with 14 goals. Both Jurgen Locadia and Gaston Pereiro have performed admirably as they could have to settle for seats on the bench in the game.
Cocu will be expected to maintain his regular midfield of Jorrit Hendrix, Andres Guardado and Davy Propper as they have been mainstays in the side that qualified for the Last 16 of the UEFA Champions League. The real test for PSV will come with the intriguing match-ups on the flanks as Eljero Elia will face-off against Santiago Arias. The Colombian experienced a dip in form as the first half of the season went on but came out the other side as he is the only defender with 30 chances created and 33 tackles made according to OptaJohan. This box-to-box dynamism will be needed to curtail the threat that Elia poses.
At left-back, Cocu will have to pick someone to hold their own against danger-man Dirk Kuyt and the effervescent bundle of energy and athleticism Rick Karsdorp. As well as Willems, Simon Poulsen is also expected to be absent as Cocu will most likely have to choose among Joshua Brenet, Hector Moreno and Jordy De Wijs who was recently added to the first-team squad and awarded a new long-term contract. Brenet has played at right-back in Malta while De Wijs made a costly mistake against Hibernians at left back and Moreno played there a few times during the first half of the season with Ismait-Mirin partnering Bruma at centre-back.
Feyenoord have won 8 of their last 9 home games of the season as they go into this game against the current Eredivisie Champions hoping to make a serious statement of intent ahead of a testing fixture schedule. Cocu’s PSV are three points behind league leaders Ajax who only have the Eredivisie to contend in after being knocked out of the KNVB Bekker and Europa League as they will hope to start 2016 on a good note with an eye on their tie against Atletico Madrid in February. The Eredivisie returns with a bang with the Derby Of the East between FC Twente and Heracles on Friday and the clash of titans on Sunday.