PSV Eindhoven caretaker coach Phillip Cocu knows his side's Eredivisie title hopes are over ahead of this weekend's clash with AZ Alkmaar. PSV fell to a 2-1 home defeat by RKC Waalwijk last night to leave them seven points behind leaders Ajax, who underlined their title credentials with a 5-0 thumping of Heerenveen.
The defeat meant Cocu's side missed their chance to put pressure on the teams above them as AZ and FC Twente played out a 2-2 draw and Feyenoord drew a blank against Roda JC. Cocu believes overhauling Ajax is now a step too far and is setting his sights on securing second place.
"We can put the title out of our minds," Cocu told www.voetbalprimeur.nl. "We must now work hard to try and get second or third place.
"If we win against AZ, you can see for yourself that second place is still achievable. We can put the title out of our minds. On Saturday we play against AZ and we must see what is the maximum that we can get out of the season. Everything is still possible in the last five rounds."
In contrast, Ajax coach Frank de Boer believes his side are now favourites to lift the title following their resounding win over Heerenveen on Wednesday night. That result moved them three points clear of second-placed AZ ahead of Sunday's home game against bottom side De Graafschap, who are winless in their last six league games.
The game will be the second in four days for De Graafschap as they play FC Utrecht on Thursday night, and De Boer is confident his side can get a result to put further daylight between his side and their title rivals. "So now we are the favourites (for the title)," De Boer.said.
"As of Thursday, the focus is on Sunday's game with De Graafschap and then we play at home against FC Groningen. If we win both of those battles then we will have a nice buffer, you know."
Despite only drawing the hard-fought game against AZ, Twente coach Steve McClaren saw a change in his side which he believes will push Ajax all the way in their hopes of lifting the title. Substitute Emir Bajrami snatched a last-gasp equaliser for Twente at the AFAS Stadion to nick a point for the Enschede-based side and McClaren hailed the way his team kept up their desire to win during the match.
"I finally saw something in my team that I've waited three months for - a strong final stage," McClaren said. "We showed a strong mentality, character and a lot of energy in the last 15 minutes after we had come again at a disadvantage. If we can muster that in the last five matches of the competition there are still some interesting weeks for us."
In the other games, Feyenoord take on Excelsior while VVV Venlo play FC Utrecht on Sunday following tonight's game against Vitesse Arnhem. ADO Den Haag - who also play today against FC Groningen - take on Vitesse on Sunday afternoon.
Elsewhere, NEC Nijmegen play Heerenveen on Saturday while Sunday's other games see Groningen host Roda JC and SC Heracles Almelo play RKC Waalwijk.