Almere City v Heracles Almelo
Almost a full round of second division football this Friday and two teams in decent form playing each other. Heracles are top of the league and seem to be heading straight for promotion. Almere City won three out of the last six games, but that was mostly against weaker teams and they don’t quite seem good enough to really worry the top teams in this league.
Almere City have mostly been very good at keeping the ranks closed at the back, but they have been without right back Hamdi Akujobi who got injured in the cup against TOP Oss. His replacement Joey Jacobs does have experience in the Eerste Divisie, with Jong AZ, but looked a bit shaky against Willem II last week. Heracles Almelo has got one of the best attacking lines of this league, with several players who’d be absolutely fine in the top flight.
They have been scoring plenty of goals and where their defence was rock solid at the start of this season, they’ve been conceding plenty of goals recently. I suspect they’ll do the same away at Almere City, so overs could be a bet, but I suspect Almere will try to keep a clean sheet, so a Heracles victory seems a safer bet.
PEC Zwolle v MVV Maastricht
PEC Zwolle have been struggling lately. They cruised at the start of this season and seemed to head straight for promotion, but recently it hasn’t come that easy and they haven’t won a game with more than a goal difference since the end of August. In this game they are playing the surprise side of this season, MVV Maastricht. The Southerners are third in the league, only two points behind their opponent this Friday and nobody really saw that coming.
MVV like to play out from the back and head forward without taking ridiculous risks. It went terribly wrong against FC Eindhoven (5-0) over a month ago, but they showed resilience since then by winning five of the next six games. It is hard to see them keeping that battle up until the end, but at the moment they seem a threat for any side in the Eerste Divisie.
Thomas Beelen isn’t expected back until the new year, but other than that, PEC Zwolle seem complete for this game. However, the same goes for MVV, who barely make any changes in the line-up this season. Striker Koen Kostons is in good form with four goals and several assists in the last seven games and together with Jarne Steuckers, he poses a threat for every defence. I am not convinced MVV will get a victory here, but I don’t see PEC completely overrun then, so I’d go on the away side, but with a handicap.
VVV Venlo v Jong AZ
Jong AZ haven’t been as convincing as earlier in the season, but for this game they have an extra handicap. The first team are playing an important Conference League game in Liechtenstein on Thursday and continue on Sunday with a league game against FC Volendam, so it seems that none of the fringe players from the first team will be able to play this game for Jong AZ. That means that players like Yusuf Barasi, Zico Buurmeester, Peer Koopmeiners and probably also Fedde de Jong will most likely not be available for Maarten Martens’s side.
VVV are pretty inconsistent this season, with some decent wins and shocking defeats (at home to FC Dordrecht for example) but they are at mid-table level and Jong AZ missing several of their important players should be something they can handle in the current form. VVV lean heavily on the goals from midfielder and captain Sven Braken and as Jong AZ’s midfield will be a lot less strong than usual, VVV will see their chances there. That’s why I’d put my money on the home side claiming all three points here.
Helmond Sport v ADO Den Haag
After 12 rounds in this year’s Eerste Divisie, Helmond Sport was the first side to sack their manager this season. The new owners are ambitious and the nine points from 12 games was far below their expectations, especially after signing about 15 players at the start of this season, of whom several should have the quality to play in the top half of this division. Manager Sven Swinnen was given his first job as head coach last April and did a classic for a starting manager, saying he wanted to win games playing attacking football. He managed to play attacking football, but winning games didn’t really work out for him.
ADO Den Haag also have a manager like that, former Liverpool player Dirk Kuyt came in this summer saying he wanted to go for promotion with ADO playing attacking football. 12 games later they are in the bottom half of the table and nobody’d be surprised if Kuyt would be the next manager to bite the dust in this league. Lately the results are a bit better and that is mostly down to striker Thomas Verheydt. The strong striker, who is rumoured to have the biggest contract ADO’s ever given, had a shocking start to the season. He soon said they weren’t using him in his strength, with crosses from the wings, but since they changed that he switched things on. Four goals in the last four games are probably keeping Kuyt in his job at the moment.
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