Sparta Rotterdam v FC Groningen
So far, Sparta have won two, drawn one and lost three – against AZ, Ajax and Feyenoord – of their opening six fixtures. Having seen both of these sides in action this season, I think that Sparta are a notch above what Groningen can offer.
Both are missing their Norwegian targetmen. The hosts may be without Tobias Lauritsen due to an injury sustained last weekend, and Groningen are sorely missing their recently transferred striker Jorgen Strand Larsen. They really don’t look as threatening without him, that is despite their away victory at Cambuur last time out.
Groningen boss Frank Wormuth struggled away from home with his old team Heracles Almelo. On the whole, his new side seem more solid, but they are now lacking regular goal threat from their new strikers Florian Kruger and Ricardo Pepi (signed over the summer) as they settling into their new surroundings. Unfortunately, their supporting midfielders don’t offer too much in the way of quality either.
No Lauritsen may mean a lack of goal threat for Sparta, and whilst I think they should pick up at least a point, there may be very few goals in Rotterdam.
RKC Waalwijk v Cambuur
Sitting in 12th, I actually think RKC have made a very promising start to the season. They can be difficult to beat, and if they can begin to more regularly win matches they are favourites in – such as this one – then they could look to push on this season after a summer which made many believe they would be in severe danger of relegation.
Cambuur have an xG per match this season of 1.95, but they have only scored 0.67 per match. That works out roughly as 12 goals should have gone in, but only 4 actually have! The division’s lowest goal-scorers have been unlucky at times.
What also hasn’t helped for Henk de Jong’s men is Everton’s young on-loan goalkeeper Joao Virginia has looked error prone. The team that dropped down the table like a stone last season have had a slow start to the season.
RKC are yet to keep a clean sheet this season – no surprise with their new-look defence – and the football gods surely can’t keep Cambuur from scoring for a sixth match out of seven this season. They have some good creative midfielders who should be good for a goal most weeks.
PSV v Feyenoord
With the Eredivisie’s top sides growing further disparate from the rest of the league, results in games like this can define a season. I think this is a great opportunity for Feyenoord.
I was originally impressed by Ruud van Nistelrooy’s start as head coach of PSV, but there have been some big moments which show that he has not yet made a difference in some pivotal games. Originally there was the Rangers disappointment, where PSV were too negatively set up. A defeat to FC Twente followed a week-and-a-half later, and points were dropped in the Europa League to Bodo/Glimt on Thursday. PSV aren’t expected to win every match they play, but it’s evident that they still struggle against sides in those 50:50 games.
To make matters worse, injuries have ravaged PSV’s front line. Three separate players have tried and not really succeeded in Luuk de Jong’s absent striker position. Xavi Simons is the only current slice of quality there next to Cody Gakpo. Imagine if Gakpo had decided to make a late summer transfer out of the club…
Feyenoord have scored 19 times in their last five games in all competitions. I have repeated that Arne Slot has impressively bedded in his 15 summer signings already, and I think they have the quality, tactics and motivation to get a massive three points in Eindhoven. I think it could be a cracking game.
AZ Alkmaar v Ajax
AZ are one of very few teams in the Eredivisie who can give even an in-form Ajax a good game. However, despite AZ’s run of 11 games unbeaten (9 wins), I don’t see them posing a big threat.
Having seen recent games, AZ struggled to get past minnows Vaduz in the Europa Conference League on Thursday, and I thought they lacked some quality in their draw with Twente last weekend. Like PSV, AZ are also without several key attacking players; Vangelis Pavlidis and Jesper Karlsson are possibly their two best players. In fairness to Alkmaar, they are doing well results wise, but I don’t see them having the quality to get anything on Sunday.
Ajax also played in mid-week, though have had two extra days of rest following their Champions League defeat to Liverpool. They were defending for long periods in the second half and their lack of height was a major issue for them; however, they were composed when creating attacking opportunities against such a high-level opponent. Mohammed Kudus continues to impress as a striker (with five goals and an assist in his last four appearances) and Steven Bergwijn gives that extra bite cutting in from wide areas.
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