Ajax push on, leaders on their travels
Ajax will be aiming to end a topsy-turvy week on a winning note when they travel to Vitesse Arnhem in the Eredivisie on Sunday.
A 1-1 draw at home to NEC Nijmegen last Saturday left the Amsterdam club five points adrift of leaders PSV Eindhoven and FC Twente. Coach Martin Jol then quit his post 48 hours later, leaving Frank de Boer in temporary charge until the winter break.
Ajax responded in the best possible way, though, beating AC Milan 2-0 at the San Siro in the UEFA Champions League in midweek. It marked an impressive start to De Boer's tenure, and the former Netherlands defender is hoping they can continue that against Vitesse.
"When I took over, I told them that they need to be a solid team," he said. "They must fight for each other. They looked really grown up and disciplined against Milan. I'm not surprised, I know what they can do and they now need to keep showing it. I just hope the lads believe in what they can do. They can all play fantastic football."
Vitesse were hammered 4-1 by FC Groningen last weekend, a win which lifted the latter up to third at the expense of Ajax. Groningen take on AZ Alkmaar on Sunday, with just one point separating the pair in the table, but will be without forward Koen van de Laak after he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the victory over Vitesse.
PSV travel to De Graafschap on Saturday night, a day before title rivals Twente make the trip to Heerenveen. The teams are level on 37 points, with PSV holding top spot on goal difference. And Eindhoven coach Fred Rutten is eager to widen that gap as his players look to wrest the trophy away from defending champions Twente.
"We must work hard on improving our game. We have to improve if we want to be crowned champions at the end of the season," he said.
At the bottom of the table, Willem II will continue the search for their first win of the season on Saturday at NEC Nijmegen. Willem II are five points behind VVV-Venlo, who kick off the weekend's action with a match at Heracles Almelo on Friday night.
VVV are also coming adrift from the rest of the group, and have a six-point deficit to make up on an Excelsior side who meet surprise strugglers Feyenoord on Sunday. Defeat for the Rotterdam side would see them slip below their opponents in the standings, putting more pressure on the shoulders of coach Mario Been.
NAC Breda entertain FC Utrecht on Saturday while Roda JC face ADO den Haag in contests involving four teams battling for mid-table supremacy.