Verbeek has sights set on top three
AZ Alkmaar coach Gertjan Verbeek is hoping his side can welcome three points against Vitesse Arnhem tomorrow to offer a boost in their battle to close the gap on the Eredivisie's top three.
With PSV Eindhoven, FC Twente and Ajax all in UEFA Europa League action today, AZ have the chance to move to within nine points of the summit, and eight points from a UEFA Champions League qualifying berth.
Verbeek would be the first to admit, though, that his side's most realistic goal is to consolidate their current fourth place, and is optimistic of pulling four points clear of nearest rivals ADO Den Haag with victory at AZ Stadion tomorrow.
"Vitesse is a completely different team at home than away," said Verbeek, referring to Vitesse's away record which has brought them just two wins on the road this season.
"There are many problems with teams when playing away from home, including for us. At home, they feel at ease and they radiate confidence. Spirit in away matches this season has not been as successful. We want to keep that going. Vitesse has a good footballing team, but is mentally fragile."
Vitesse have struggled for consistency this season and head into tomorrow night's game just one place above the drop zone, albeit seven points clear of third-bottom Excelsior.
The Eredivisie big guns are not in action until Sunday, when league leaders PSV will bid to extend their 11-game unbeaten run at the summit against FC Utrecht. PSV lead the way by just a point from FC Twente with seven matches remaining.
Twente travel to lowly Excelsior, while third-placed Ajax, three points adrift of the leaders, are in action at fifth-placed ADO Den Haag, who are in need of a good result after two defeats in their last three outings.
On Saturday, sixth-placed FC Groningen are in action at NAC Breda, Heracles Almelo welcome Heerenveen to Polman Stadion, while NEC Nijmegen play host to De Graafschap in a battle of two mid-table sides at Stadion de Goffert.
The bottom two sides also face off as VVV Venlo entertain Willem II, but with VVV 13 points from safety and Willem II 18 short of survival, only the hosts stand a chance of gaining any benefit from taking all three points.