Goal takes a look at what to expect from the upcoming season and predicts which teams and players are likely to make the limelightBy Stefan Coerts
Nearly three months after the last game of the 2012-13 Eredivisie campaign, the wait is over at last as reigning champions Ajax kick off the new season with a home game against Roda.
The Amsterdam giants made it three in a row last term as they proved to be too strong for their traditional title rivals PSV and Feyenoord. However, they face a tough task to successfully defend their title as both the Eindhoven side and the Rotterdammers will be keen to end their dominance.
Although no longer a title contender following the loss of a number of key players, Twente will feel confident about their chances of making it into Europe again this term. They face competition from the likes of Vitesse, Ajax, Heerenveen, AZ and Utrecht, though.
A bit lower down the table, clubs such as Roda, RKC, Go Ahead Eagles and Cambuur will have to do their utmost to avoid the drop to the Eerstedivisie in what promises to be an interesting relegation battle.
Goal takes a look at what to expect of the 2013-14 season.
Ajax started the season on a high as they beat AZ 3-2 in the Johan Cruyff Shield last week and they are the red-hot favourites to add more silverware to their trophy cabinet come May 2014. Unlike PSV and Twente, the titleholders have so far managed to keep their squad together and they will be hopeful of winning their fourth consecutive league title. Feyenoord are likely to play a role in the title race, too, but their lack of options up front could prove to be problematic.
PSV and Feyenoord will be battling it out for Netherlands’ second Champions League spot and, despite the loss of stars such as Kevin Strootman, Jeremain Lens and Dries Mertens, the Eindhoven side will fancy their chances of finishing second this term. Their young team impressed during pre-season with some fresh and attacking performances, whereas Ronald Koeman’s men have looked rusty. The absence of an alternative to Graziano Pelle has been highlighted as their weakest point and could come back to haunt them.
With Feyenoord expected to pick up one of the Eredivisie’s three Europa League places (the fourth ticket goes to the KNVB Beker winners), a number of candidates will be fighting it out for the remaining two places. Twente and AZ have become regulars in Europe in recent years, but Heerenveen, Vitesse and Utrecht will not be pushovers, either. The former two seem to be the main candidates to make it into Europe next term, though.
Feyenoord themselves are a good bet to claim the KNVB Cup. The Rotterdam giants have always had a reputation of being cup-fighters, yet have not won the KNVB Beker since 2008. This could be the season that their trophy drought comes to an end, though.
After somewhat surprisingly winning promotion to the top tier last term, both Go Ahead Eagles and Cambuur will realise that they will have to give their all if they are to stay up this term. Additionally, RKC and Roda will not be too confident ahead of the start of the new season either after their struggles last term. The main candidates to go down are GAE, though, after finishing only sixth in the Eerstedivisie in 2012-13.
With both PSV and Ajax spending plenty of cash this summer, one would expect that one of the title candidates’ new additions would be the man to be tipped as signing of the season. Nevertheless, it’s Heerenveen midfielder Magnus Wolff Eikrem instead who gets the mention. The Norway international was widely expected to make the move to one of Europe’s top leagues this summer, but eventually opted to join the Frisians for a relatively modest transfer fee.
Although there's no arguing that Mike van der Hoorn is one of the league's more talented young defenders, the step up to Ajax this summer could very well prove to be the wrong move. With Toby Alderweireld set to stay put for another season after transfers to Bayer Leverkusen and Norwich fell through and Joel Veltman developing rather well too, Van der Hoorn seems destined to end up on the bench, despite a transfer fee in the region of €4 million.
Before last year, Graziano Pelle had scored just 14 goals in 78 Eredivisie appearances during his four years at AZ, but he really burst into life at Feyenoord in 2012-13. With 27 goals in 29 games, the Italian was one of the revelations of the season and he’ll be keen to replicate his fine form this term. Fellow prolific strikers such as Jozy Altidore and Wilfried Bony have left the Dutch top flight this season, making Pelle one of the favourites to pick up the top scorer award.
When Frank de Boer replaced Martin Jol at the helm in December 2010, there were doubts as to whether the former Netherlands international was up for the task of leading Ajax, but he has since proven that he’s one of Europe's best coaches. Only Guus Hiddink, Rinus Michels and Louis van Gaal have won more Eredivisie titles than De Boer and a fourth consecutive league trophy will put him on par with the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss.
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Viktor Fischer took the Eredivisie by storm last term after making his official first team debut in the Johan Cruyff Shield as he played a key role in Ajax's victories over Feyenoord and PSV. The 19-year-old ended the season with 10 goals in 23 appearances and he'll be determined to do even better this year. The Denmark international has already been linked with a host of top European clubs, but he seems keen to prove his worth in Holland before making the step up.
Christian Eriksen has been one of the undisputed stars of the Eredivisie in recent years and the creative midfielder was widely expected to move to a bigger club this summer. However, a transfer abroad has not materialised as of yet and the 21-year-old seems ready to stay put for another season. Eriksen has occasionally been criticised for inconsistency, but he was the star of the show in the majority of Ajax's big games last term. The 2013-14 campaign should be the season where he truly confirms that he's destined for stardom.