The Eredivisie has long been known as a breeding ground for some of European football’s brightest talents – the English Premier League being one of the main beneficiaries, with recent exports including Mousa Dembele, Cheick Tiote, Jan Vertonghen, Thomas Vermaelen and Ron Vlaar. In Ruud van Nistelrooy and Robin van Persie, the Eredivisie nurtured two of the best strikers ever to grace the Premier League
Luis Suarez, signed by Liverpool from Ajax, is a classic example of players from continents like South America and Africa, who see the Dutch top-flight as a perfect introduction to European football, a stepping stone if you like. Right now in Holland there is a good spread of emerging talent across some of the Eredivisie’s bigger clubs, helping create the conditions for a tremendously competitive title race.
Prior to the winter-break, just five-points separated leaders PSV and Vitesse in fifth place – with the league campaign resuming on the 18 January, here is a look at the clubs who will battle it out for the fifty-seventh Eredivisie title.
PSV (1st – 40 points)
The league’s top-scorers at the half-way stage, averaging 3.3 goals-per-game, leaving PSV supporters hopeful of a first Eredivisie title since 2008. It’s cautious optimism from most fans though, having seen promising challenges fall away in each of the last three seasons.
This time though they can count on the experience of Dick Advocaat and Mark van Bommel, who both returned to the Philips Stadion over the summer – whether their presence will be enough to help PSV over the line remains to be seen but the signs are certainly good.
Free scoring and a joy to watch for the most part this season, a concern to Advocaat will be that two of their four defeats have come against fellow title challengers – at home against Vitesse and away against Ajax.
FC Twente (2nd – 40 points)
The league’s biggest spenders over the summer, by some distance, Twente’s players will have been very glad to reach the winter break, having started their campaign on the 5 July in the 1st round of Europa League qualifiers.
Started the league season superbly, winning their first six games but then lost at Ajax and have never regained that level of consistency. That said, they have the league’s meanest defence, conceding 14 goals in 18 games.
It’s not stopped criticism of head coach Steve McClaren though, which peaked in early December after a 3-nil defeat at PSV. The successive wins that followed against Heracles and AZ eased the pressure on the former England manager, who is looking to repeat the title-winning success he managed in his first spell in charge at Twente.
Ajax (3rd – 37 points)
Looking to win a third consecutive league title, Ajax have lost only once in the Eredivisie this season, at home against Vitesse. Frank de Boer’s side have drawn more than they would have liked though, finishing level on seven occasions, more than any of the other title challengers.
Strong finishes have been key to their last two title wins – Ajax won their last six league games of the 10/11 season and their final fourteen games of last season – players like Kenneth Vermeer, Toby Alderweireld, Daley Blind, Siem de Jong, Christian Eriksen and Eyong Enoh involved on each occasion.
A note of caution is that Ajax are the only Eredivisie club still involved in European competition this season, after finishing third in a Champions League group containing Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid and Manchester City – a prolonged run in the Europa League would mean far more fixtures than their title rivals, but it is a competition Ajax are keen to do well in, with this season’s final being played at the Amsterdam Arena.
Feyenoord (4th – 37 points)
Surprised a lot of people by finishing 2nd last season, having been 5th at the half-way stage – the Rotterdam club has a fighting chance of going one better this season, as they look to end a fourteen year wait for their 15th league title.
Ronald Koeman’s team went into the winter break as the Eredivisie’s most in-form side, going unbeaten in their final seven games, winning six of them – a concern though is their record against fellow title challengers having failed to beat any of them in the first half of the season, losing at Vitesse, PSV and Twente.
On the plus side, all three of those sides still have to visit De Kuip and in Graziano Pelle and Lex Immers, Feyenoord have two of the Dutch top flight’s most impressive players this season, scoring twenty-four goals between them
Vitesse (5th – 35 points)
Still waiting for their first Eredivisie title, Vitesse have made big strides this season, having finished twenty-three points behind Champions, Ajax in the previous campaign.
Became the first Dutch club to come under foreign ownership when purchased by Georgian businessman Merab Jordania, a former footballer, in August 2010 – at the time he targeted a league title by 2013 and he’s far closer to it than many believed possible at the time.
Managed by former PSV head coach Fred Rutten since the start of this season, Vitesse were unbeaten against all the other title challengers in the first half of the season, beating Feyenoord, PSV and Ajax. A real source of frustration for Vitesse supporters is that their three league defeats this season have all come against clubs in the lower-half of the table.