Excelsior v Heerenveen
When Excelsior face a team they cannot dominate possession, they don’t have the quality to prevent conceding shots on goal. Despite Stijn van Gassel’s excellent goalkeeping, the way that Marinus Dijkhuizen’s men naively defended against Go Ahead meant that they let in goals at the wrong moments of the game, and they also missed their own chances when they came. This is a continuation from last season’s promotion campaign, when Excelsior were often able to outscore their opponents.
On the other hand, whilst Heerenveen lost their last game against Utrecht, there were lots of positives to take from the performance. They only lost out to two fantastic strikes on goal. Kees van Wonderen switched to a more attacking 4-3-3 and it meant they dominated proceedings. I wonder whether that will happen again here away from home. If so, I think they will win because fans have been crying out for a more attacking approach.
Mats Kohlert has been the left-wing back so far, and putting him back at left-back in the 4-3-3 system has still seen the Frisians getting the best out of the German’s forays forward. Add to that the goals and guile of Amin Sarr and Sydney van Hooijdonk, and you have a side that can be robust to keep Excelsior out, but rely on magic from the forwards to secure the three points.
FC Utrecht v FC Groningen
Utrecht have started picking up some results, but they’re not at their scintillating best still. Maybe it’s just that there’s a lack of young talents in the team to excite supporters. The experienced make-up of Henk Fraser’s team has made for some boring watches this season. However, they are slowly improving. In their last home match, they performed far better than they had been by beating Sparta 3-1, and in the last match, they pulled off a plucky 1-2 win at Heerenveen.
Groningen don’t seem capable of having more than half of the possession, or breaking quickly on the counter attack. Prime candidates then to lose another game. For such a big club in the Eredivisie, they should not be struggling quite so much.
Frank Wormuth has struggled as Groningen head coach since taking over in the summer. He has been unable to improve some of the problems faced by the previous head coach. Their recent 4-2 win over PSV was won by a mad five minutes including three goals. Ricardo Pepi has at least given fans some hope of a star breaking through this season with his five goals up until now. I don’t think they will have enough to prevent Utrecht winning again, which continues their revival.
FC Twente v Go Ahead Eagles
Twente continue to have an incredible home record, having won all of their games there thus far. There’s an expectation that they should win this one, too.
However, Go Ahead have quietly been on a very good run of form recently, which has included ever-improving attacking play and results like a 1-1 draw at Ajax. Can they take these higher performance levels to surprise Twente? It could be close.
Last weekend, we won with an under 3.5 goals bet as Twente beat RKC at home. I like the look of this bet again. Go Ahead’s 1-1 draw with Ajax already showed that they can defend deep for long periods against the league’s top sides, whilst also having some quality on the break (through Oliver Edvardsen and Bobby Adekanye) which may pin Twente back at times.
I also think that Twente will either stutter to a draw, or continue their fine home form. When you look at their last three home wins, each were 3-0 victories over sides that were rather mediocre in Enschede. In-form Go Ahead pose a more difficult challenge. In addition, let’s not forget Twente’s brilliant defensive record up until now: only 7 goals conceded after 12 games, the best in the league. Goalkeeper Lars Unnerstall has continued to show everybody that he is one of the league’s finest in his position.
Ajax v PSV
The huge game of the weekend! Ajax are very likely to have the edge on the possession statistic. They were much better in their 1-3 win at Rangers, and I really liked the performance of Steven Berghuis yet again as the attacking midfielder, who may end up being the number 10 for the Netherlands at the World Cup.
The issues remain in defence for both of these sides. Ajax have a goalkeeper and defenders who are out of form and are struggling on the big stage; in the matches against top sides, they have been exposed time and again since Erik Ten Hag left. Meanwhile, for PSV, they have just recently stemmed the tide of conceding goals in a defensive record very similar to that under ex-coach Roger Schmidt last season. Ruud van Nistelrooy has had a slightly rocky start as PSV manager, yet the 2-0 win over Arsenal was a massive boost to get the campaign back on track.
PSV have enjoyed some good results recently thanks to some of their stars returning to full fitness, making this a much better match than this might have been a few weeks ago.
A PSV handicap is very tempting, and a handicap is well priced too, especially when you factor in Cody Gakpo’s excellent form this season up against the raw and inexperienced (in Europe) Jorge Sanchez at right-back for Ajax. Gakpo has been criticised for ‘going missing’ in the big games for PSV, but his record this season reads 13 goals and 16 assists in 22 games! Because of that, along with the return of Luuk de Jong and Noni Madueke, I fancy PSV to get something.
Written by an Andy verified content writer
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