Stronger than Chaos and Turbulence
Since April, Ajax have not dropped a single point in the Eredivisie, with five wins out of five. However, all that glitters is not gold for the Amsterdam side, whose inconsistency remains a problem. In the last round of matches, Ajax met Heerenveen and only the impressive display of goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer, along with a little luck, helped the Amsterdammers leave the Abe Lenstra Stadium with three points. It was a vital win to keep their title hopes alive.
Ajax have a young and talented, but inexperienced, team. The Dutch Cup final last weekend saw Frank de Boer’s men let slip a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2 in extra time. Once again the solidity needed was missing, though De Boer will surely be happy that his side are still fighting for the title on the very last day of the season. It has been a difficult campaign with the departure of two key players in Luis Suarez and Urby Emanuelson in January, combined with coach Martin Jol’s resignation in November and the chaos surrounding the club off the pitch with legend Johan Cruyff opposed to current chairman Uri Coronel.
On 9th May 2004, Ajax, led by Ronald Koeman, beat NAC Breda to win the Eredivisie title. Since then the trophy has not returned to Amsterdam. That though was a team of future stars with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wesley Sneijder, Rafael van der Vaart, Nigel de Jong, Maxwell, John Heitinga and Steven Pienaar in the ranks. “Step by step”, said Cruyff, “the club must come back to those days. The current squad is good, but less talented.”
However, winning the Eredivisie title could provide the perfect starting point for rising stars like Christian Eriksen, Vurnon Anita, Lorenzo Ebecilio, Toby Alderweireld, Gregory van der Wiel, Siem Jong and Daley Blind, to fulfil their potential.
Looking for the Double
For seven days in April, FC Twente looked to have let the Eredivisie title slip from their grasp, as two consecutive draws against Roda JC and De Graafschap saw PSV Eindhoven topple them for top spot. To make matters worse the Enschede side suffered a disappointing Europa League exit at the quarter-final stage, going out to La Liga outfit Villarreal 8-2 on aggregate.
Despite this mini-slump though, coach Michel Preud’Homme was able to keep the team on the right track. Twente showed they could handle the pressure, as midfielder Wout Brama explained: “Playing in Europe against teams like Inter, Tottenham Hotspur, Rubin Kazan and Zenit St. Petersburg gave us experience and improved our self-confidence.”
A win in Den Haag against surprise package ADO showed that Twente would not easily be blown off course and the side again jumped to the top of the table with two games to go. Then a comfortable 4-0 win over Willem II kept Preud’Homme’s side just ahead of Ajax.
This season Twente have shown quality but also strong character, not losing a game to any of the country’s other big clubs. PSV were beaten twice (1-0 away and 2-0 at home) and the team drew 2-2 at Grolsch Veste against Ajax. The Amsterdam giants were also defeated in the Dutch Super Cup and the Dutch Cup. Curiously, the latter contest was decided by Austrian striker Marc Janko – one
of the squad’s most underwhelming performers this season. Janko has failed to meet expectations since a switch from Red Bull Salzburg and is the club’s record signing at €5.5M. Helping Twente lift the cup though means Janko cannot be considered a flop anymore.
Players to watch
Ajax – Kenneth Vermeer: The keeper’s saves have been vital in keeping Ajax in with a chance of the title. Vermeer acts as second choice behind Maarten Stekelenburg, and was himself still recovering from a serious Achilles injury when Stekelenburg was ruled out too. Fit again though, the former 2006 and 2007 Under-21 European Championship winner showed all his skills between the sticks. In this vital final league match, Vermeer’s reflexes may be key to Ajax holding off Twente in a game they simply must win.
Twente – Theo Janssen: Despite joining Twente in 2008, Janssen already deserves his spot in the Tukkers’ Hall of Fame. As a left-sided central midfielder in Preud’Homme’s 4-3-3 system, Janssen has netted 19 goals overall – his best total yet. He has provided ten assists too. The heavily-tattooed smoker is a free-kick master who has become a cult icon in Enschede and beyond.
In the Eredivisie, Ajax have won seven out of the last ten games played at the Amsterdam ArenA against Twente, losing just once (2-1 in the 2004/05 season). A draw will be enough for the visitors here, but both teams play attacking football and shutting up shop is not an option. The Dutch Cup final was a spectacular affair and this will be no different. It is a 50-50 clash that should finish 1-1 or 2-2.
Fonte: Inside Futbol