Every week in the 2021/22 season, Football-Oranje’s Michael Statham gives you his previews and predictions for each Dutch Eredivisie round.
- by Michael Statham
- Follow Michael on Twitter @EredivisieMike
Sunday, 15th May
Heerenveen v Go Ahead Eagles
Going into the final day of the Eredivisie regular season, Heerenveen and Go Ahead Eagles both have a good chance of reaching the European play-offs, where positions fifth to eighth have a play-off over the following two weeks to decide who earns the final Europa Conference League ticket.
Looking at the fixtures, I would suggest Heerenveen are best placed to do that. Firstly, they have a two-point cushion over the likes of Go Ahead and Groningen below them, and if they better NEC’s result, then a fairly disappointing season could have a very exciting end. Given the quality of the teams above them in the play-off standings though, I don’t think the team finishing eighth place will go all that far in the play-offs next week, seeing as AZ, Utrecht and Vitesse are also taking part.
I watched Heerenveen run AZ very close recently, before they were trounced at the hands of title-winning Ajax last weekend. The one bright spark seemed to be Amin Sarr, who I have mentioned a fair bit since his January arrival in Friesland. His hefty fee brought great anticipation, and after a goalless start, Sarr has found his shooting boots in the Dutch top flight, scoring five in his last seven.
Next season, Go Ahead boss Kees van Wonderen is taking over at Heerenveen. He takes with him his tactical adaptability; he uses his players to the best of their advantages. Sometimes he is guilty of setting his teams up too defensively, and I don’t think inviting pressure from the Frisians will do them any favours. 2-0
Heracles Almelo v Sparta Rotterdam
At the wrong end of the table, we have a relegation battle of dramatic proportions. These two sides are the two floating precariously in 14th and 15th, which is just above the dotted line to the bottom three. If one of these teams loses, then they will put themselves in big danger of the drop. Heracles are the safer of the two given they have two extra points on the board, and only a defeat would mean that 16th-placed Fortuna Sittard could catch them with a victory.
Sparta taking seven points out of their last three has been massive in giving themselves a fighting chance on the final day. I think had Henk Fraser stayed on then there wouldn’t have been this extra verve in their performances which new boss Maurice Steijn has provided. They look capable of taking another good result in Almelo, so long as they continue to sit deep in the right moments; Heracles don’t have a focal point in attack or someone who can freely poach inside the penalty area – hence why they find themselves in this situation going into the final day.
Heracles should do enough to stay up, but Sparta I just fancy to stay in the game for long periods and pounce for an all-important goal which could stave off Fortuna. And even if Heracles do win, an Asian handicap in favour of Sparta will offer protection in case they can’t quite keep Steijn’s honeymoon period going. 1-1
Vitesse v Ajax
It has been a very good season for Vitesse on the whole. You could argue that a drop in league form could mean fingers pointed at manager Thomas Letsch, but he has done the best he could with the players at his disposal, and Letsch was certainly able to rise his players for the big occasion: Vitesse were fantastic in the Europa Conference League this season – far surpassing everyone’s expectations of a mid-table Dutch club in European group-stage football.
Two wins from the last three have added a shine to Vitesse’s points total. Some supporters would have liked to have seen them closer to the top five and knocking on Feyenoord’s door for third place, but I reject that sentiment. I do think though that they have their deficiencies whenever it comes to playing a top side. They tend to concede too many in these matches. Their clean sheet and victory away at Feyenoord earlier in the season came at a poor moment for the Rotterdam side, so that feels like an anomaly.
With the title wrapped up, Ajax are purely playing for pride. There are small targets to bear in mind, such as reaching 100 goals scored this season, but I don’t see them putting four or more past Vitesse.
The Arnhem side will be combative and try to use Lois Openda on counter attacks to hold the ball up and try to stretch the Ajax defence. It’s a shame that there isn’t a quality winger, attacking-midfielder or striker to play up top with him, to really put pressure on the champions.
An Ajax win is very likely, and over 1.5 goals as an extra is quite unlikely to lose. 0-2
FC Groningen v Cambuur
Whilst both of these teams know a win here could take them into the European play-offs (with other results going their way), I’m not sure that ambition will be on either team’s minds looking at the terrible runs they’ve both been on. Both sides are probably just waiting to hit the beach so that they can have some changes over the summer and get ready for next season.
Groningen fans won’t have been pleased with the regression the club have gone under since the end of last season where they were able to sell some assets and look to buy some new players. The young signings have not hit the ground all season really, but Frank Wormuth (the Heracles coach) is coming in this summer hoping to recharge a pretty sizeable mid-table club.
Groningen have lost each of their last six and Cambuur have only won once in their last eighteen in all competitions. I wonder whether this might take on a care-free end-of-season Eredivisie match, where hopefully both teams unleash the shackles. I think that suits Groningen slightly better and could edge the game.
Both teams to score has been a successful bet for a lot of Cambuur’s games this season, and Groningen have been suspect at the back again lately. I think they could really do with a new goalkeeper this summer. 3-2
NEC Nijmegen v Fortuna Sittard
NEC are the other side in contention for nipping the final European play-off place. Whilst NEC are currently in pole position over Heerenveen on goal difference, I think that Fortuna’s desperation for points in their fight for survival could mean a tougher game for Nijmegen, especially with their poor home form throughout the campaign. Last time at home, they scraped a 1-0 victory over Go Ahead late on to claim their first home win since October.
There is no pressure on NEC to get eighth after only being promoted last season, but several Eredivisie pundits, including myself, tipped them for a good season given the strength of their playing squad. They are relatively sound defensively, and with players such as Lasse Schone guiding the side from midfield, they give every team a tough match.
From a Sittard point of view, they will be delighted to have Mats Seuntjens, Deroy Duarte and Zian Flemming all back from suspension for this crucial match in order to jump out of the bottom three. It is as simple as this: they win and they are out of the relegation and promotion play-off place. I think they have the quality to score at least once and then it’s up to a shaky defence to see the game out. A draw is only enough if Sparta lose and Willem II don’t win. All of the repercussions will make for an exciting day of Eredivisie action. 1-1
AZ Alkmaar v RKC Waalwijk
There is little riding on this match: AZ are fifth place and can no longer reach automatic qualification into Europe next season (having to enter the play-offs), whilst RKC are now safe from relegation. AZ supporters are disappointed that their playing squad was not strengthened properly in January whilst RKC are delighted to just survive!
I have commented on RKC’s resilience in away games this season, but I don’t think that will be as strong for the final match of the season. After their win on Wednesday, which sealed their place in the Eredivisie for next season, striker Michiel Kramer was on camera smoking a cigar!
I see this as a comfortable AZ win, which could be the final game for Jesper Karlsson, Owen Wijndal and Vangelis Pavlidis in AZ shirts because of their productive seasons. That is despite three successive draws in which they have given away leads late on. Because of the nature of this match, I don’t think RKC will be pushing for any kind of result. 3-1
Feyenoord v FC Twente
This had the billing to be an epic clash for third place, but Twente dropped points and Feyenoord continued to win in amongst their awesome run to the Conference League final. With that final over a week away, Feyenoord don’t need to rest players (they did that already against Go Ahead on Wednesday and still won).
Twente responded to dropped points against Heracles and Fortuna by beating Groningen a very convincing three goals to nil in mid-week. They have the energy to still go toe-to-toe with Feyenoord. Even though they have good results against Ajax, PSV and Feyenoord at home this season, they have conceded five goals away each to Ajax and PSV in the league; can they improve their tactics away to a top side to be defensively resolute but still have a go?
Maybe with Twente’s willingness to win versus Feyenoord’s more inevitable relaxed approach – players not wanting to get injured before the final – will mean we see a more even game. I can see both teams conceding: Feyenoord are so strong in De Kuip and yet they also have an ongoing goalkeeper problem – last time reserve goalkeeper Ofir Marciano went down injured and it’s not certain yet whether he will play in this one.
I think Ron Jans deserves manager of the year award for the work he has done with FC Twente. They have gone from a summer of having almost no players two years ago, to a cohesive unit which has pulled a big Dutch club back into European football. 2-2
PEC Zwolle v PSV
PEC Zwolle are already relegated going into this tough tie with second-placed PSV. There is nothing to play for here but pride. PEC captain Bram van Polen was in tears as he was interviewed after his club’s relegation. The players will come together for one more big performance, but heads might suddenly drop if PSV score early.
I predict that Roger Schmidt’s side, who chased Ajax almost all the way this season, will win easily here. It is Schmidt’s final game for PSV, as well as several of players, with some movement expected this summer following some profitable PSV players wanting to move to bigger leagues and Ruud van Nistelrooy wanting to put his own stamp on proceedings in Eindhoven. One player whose future is unknown is Cody Gakpo. The PSV captain received a late substitution in his last home game of the season, hinting that the supporters’ applause might be his final one in Eindhoven, but after the game, he signed a mock-up contract in the stands with spray paint, thus hinting the oppostie was true and he is to stay in the Netherlands for another season.
With both sides potentially going through the motions on Sunday, I think PSV’s quality will tell. 1-4
Willem II v FC Utrecht
The previous three previews on this weekend’s list have involved games with nothing riding on them, but my final preview of the regular Eredivisie season goes back to a crunch match at the bottom of the league: Willem II simply must win if they want to have any chance of surviving. Fortuna (in the relegation play-off place) and Sparta (in the only safe place that Willem II can reach), sit in the two places above them on the same number of points. The Tilburgers of course have to uphold their part of the deal and hope that either one of the other relegation candidates lose – but a draw for Fortuna would also be enough.
In any case, a win for Kevin Hofland’s men would be a surprise, that is despite still remaining unbeaten under the new head coach in his three home games so far: a draw with AZ and wins over Vitesse and Heracles. The win over Heracles was far more convincing than the other two positive results, where instead they sat deep and hoped for the best against two sides chasing European football. Utrecht are another team sat inside the top seven who will pose strong opposition, and they have been up and down with their results – never getting thrashed or losing to a side that they shouldn’t be. This suggests that a close game lies ahead, in which Willem II will simply need to take their chances and rely on some poor finishing at the other end to get a victory.
I just think Utrecht will have a bit too much to prevent Hofland’s side from winning, and any kind of opening goal going in the visitor’s favour might create desperation amongst the players rather than focus. We’ve seen many times this season where Willem II fall behind and the heads drop. It’s tricky to predict this one, but a game low on goals is likely to happen: Willem II have found goal-scoring hard this season and Utrecht will keep it tight. 1-1
How has Michael done so far?
Week 1: 4/9 results | 5/9 betting tips
Week 2: 4/8 results | 6/8 betting tips
Week 3: 5/9 results | 6/9 betting tips
Week 4: 4/8 results | 5/8 betting tips
Week 5: 5/9 results | 7/9 betting tips
Week 6: 4/9 results and 1 correct score | 8/9 betting tips
Week 7: 5/9 results and 1 correct score | 7/9 betting tips
Week 8: 6/9 results and 1 correct score | 6/9 betting tips
Week 9: 2/9 results | 3/8* betting tips *-one void
Week 10: 4/9 results and 1 correct score | 6/9 betting tips
Week 11: 5/9 results | 4/9 betting tips
Week 12: 4/9 results | 4/9 betting tips
Week 13: 5/9 results and 2 correct scores | 5/9 betting tips
Week 14: 5/9 results | 5/9 betting tips
Week 15: 4/9 results | 6/9 betting tips
Week 16: 2/9 results and 1 correct score | 5/9 betting tips
Week 17: 5/9 results | 7/9 betting tips
Week 18: 6/9 results and 2 correct scores | 8/9 betting tips
Week 19: 3/9 results and 2 correct scores | 5/9 betting tips
Week 20: 3/9 results and 1 correct score | 2/9 betting tips
Week 21: 7/9 results and 2 correct scores | 6/9 betting tips (click Eredivisie on here to see my betting tips)
Week 22: 4/9 results | 4/9 betting tips (click Eredivisie on here to see my betting tips)
Week 23: 5/8* results and 2 correct scores | 5/8* betting tips *game postponed (click Eredivisie on here to see my betting tips)
Week 24: 5/9 results and 1 correct score | 6/9 betting tips (click Eredivisie on here to see my betting tips)
Week 25: 7/8* results and 1 correct score | 5/8* betting tips *game suspended (click Eredivisie on here to see my betting tips)
Week 26: 7/9 results and 2 correct scores | 8/9 betting tips
Week 27: 6/9 results and 1 correct score | 7/9 betting tips
Week 28: 4/9 results and 2 correct scores | 6/9 betting tips
Week 29: 4/9 results and 1 correct score | 4/9 betting tips
Week 30: 5/9 results and 1 correct score | ?/9 betting tips
Week 31: 5/9 results and 2 correct scores | 6/9 betting tips (+ 1 void)
Week 32: 3/9 results and 2 correct scores | 7/9 betting tips
Week 33: 6/9 results and 1 correct score | 5/9 betting tips