Ajax bid to bounce back

While PSV Eindhoven target a successful title defence Ajax, are out to revisit past glories, while former England coach Steve McClaren cuts his teeth in foreign climes as the Dutch league kicks off this weekend.

McClaren will certainly be grateful that most sides in the Eredivisie are not of the calibre of the Arsenal side which crushed his new employers FC Twente 6-0 on aggregate in the UEFA Champions League over two legs.

Wednesday's 4-0 defeat at the Emirates was at least a little less painful than the UEFA EURO 2008 elimination at Croatia's hands, which former Middlesbrough boss McClaren famously watched from under an umbrella - and public vilification has not resulted either.

McClaren's men will look to put early points on the board at Roda JC Kerkrade on Saturday after Vitesse Arnhem and FC Groningen get the season officially under way on Friday.

But the title is PSV's to lose after four straight successes. FC Twente, McClaren will doubtless be aware, have not finished in the top three for 11 seasons.

Covetous glances
PSV's title came despite Klaas-Jan Huntelaar's goal-a-game exploits for Ajax, still the record-holders with 29 championships, who lost out in the playoff for entry to the Champions League qualifiers. But with Marco van Basten at the helm, Ajax are intent on going places again, having so far managed to hold off covetous glances in Huntelaar's direction from top clubs including Real Madrid.

"We will do our utmost to make Ajax champions again," van Basten said as the team began pre-season training as he bids to inject into the club the winning mentality he had as a player with Ajax, AC Milan and the Dutch national side which he propelled to EURO 1988 glory.

Losing the likes of attacking midfielder Wesley Sneijder to richer clubs in recent years has added to the perception of Ajax as a nursery side for the continent's finest - which they once were themselves. After three off-colour seasons, Ajax have invested €20 million this summer, and the club have high hopes for 20-year-old Serbia international Miralem Sulejmani, bought from Heerenveen.

PSV will bid to hang onto domestic supremacy despite selling keeper Heurelho Gomes to Tottenham. Andreas Isaksson has arrived from Manchester City as his replacement while Dutch striking starlet Stefan Nijland has arrived from Groningen. The key new face at the Philipsstadion is coach Huub Stevens, who arrives from Hamburg.

Several sides have changed their coach, although Louis van Gaal is still in his seat at AZ Alkmaar, with Feyenoord replacing Bert van Marwijk (now national coach) with former Heerenveen boss Gertjan Verbeek. Feyenoord are the only club to win the league title aside from PSV and Ajax since Alkmaar in 1981, but their last success came in 1999.