AirDeviceThe first two swaps this season have been fantastic: 0-4 for PSV and 5-0 for Ajax. Today, the No. 3 duel appears to be mainly a key match for PSV, the captain who could lead by four points, but won the Ajax competition for the last time in 2018.
“Time to payThat was the word in October in the final confrontation between Ajax and PSV Eindhoven. Erik ten Hag coined the term at the time to refer to ambition and hunger within his team. Ajax were looking to avenge their early defeat (0-4) on Johan Cruyff’s scale in the summer.
That sentiment is now alive in Eindhoven, but Roger Schmidt avoids the language of war in his previous show. He never indulged in any seasoned players on his way to competitions anyway. Schmidt would never shoot with a cannon if he could also shoot with a caulking pistol.
But in the wings, yes, there are bubbles. Because PSV Eindhoven is one point ahead of Ajax and plays at home. Well, without an audience. And without important players such as Ibrahim Sangari, Andre Ramalho and Noni Madueki. But there is an opportunity to make the competition really difficult and interesting. With a win, the leader advances by four points.
What has PSV Eindhoven taken with them since the October torture, when Ajax scored in turn 5-0? “After that I think they won everything in the competition,” Tin Hag said on his premiere.
This is not entirely true. Eindhoven tied again at Heerenveen (1-1), but remained undefeated in nine matches and got 25 points. This is more than a fifth of Ajax. What is the goal difference during that period? This is not much different: 24-7 for PSV and 22-2 for Ajax.
But the front-runner also takes something else with him: a poor balance in the long-term toppers. They have often played PSV Eindhoven against Feyenoord and Ajax in recent years. The last time PSV Eindhoven beat Ajax in the competition? September 2018. Marc van Bommel had just succeeded Philip Coco as coach and Ten Hag had just been coach in Amsterdam for six months.
What will all of this come to at Phillips Stadium now? Who controls the match? What personal duels should you watch out for? In the latter category, Jordan Tees stand out against Dusan Tadic and Mauro Jr. against Anthony, both on the wings. In Eindhoven, Mauro Junior can play an excellent left-back in eight out of ten matches in the Eredivisie. Being a striker rather than a defender in this position is no problem against the Heerenveens and PECs of this world. But can Mauro also curb Antonio’s dribbling? Brazilians together, that would be fun anyway. Or Schmidt should go to Philip Max or Philip Moeny as left-back.
We must be very good. I think the details have been worked out.
And in midfield, he has to decide who will succeed Sanjari. Joey Ferman would be the bold choice. So a great through pass is just as close today as the turning moment is in hindsight. Marco van Ginkel was safer at the time, but also less ambitious. Last year it was Olivier Boscali when Sangare was missing due to suspension. But now the Frenchman must lead the defence.
and goalkeepers. This is also a match within a match. There is currently no discussion in Ajax about Remko Pasveer. About Joel Drummel at PSV. It’s a perturbing factor with every high ball. And when playing football, uncertainty is an asset too.
Finally, the strikers. Let’s say Brian Broby is in Ajax and maybe Iran Zahavi is in Eindhoven. The Israeli has just returned to fitness after being injured and played half an hour against Telstar in the cup on Thursday. He’s not a striker who will carry the balls up front for PSV, but he gives him a free kick on the edge of the penalty area and Xavi hits it easily. Last season he appeared to be the winner of the PSV Eindhoven-Ajax match in the competition. Only in injury time Tadic scored 1-1 from the penalty spot.
Last week, Schmidt already said that Ajax is still the favorite to win the title. But he believes the chance of becoming champion has increased for PSV, with 15 rounds remaining. Tin Hag: “We have to be very good. I think the details are worked out. The players love these kinds of challenges. The staff too.”
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