Ajax coach sets championship game PSV on fire

“I think they are afraid of us anyway”. With these exact words, Ajax coach Ten Hag replied to the Fox Sports interviewer, last Sunday, who suggested that a bigger win against Heracles might have scared PSV more. Not the smartest thing to say, a week before the championship game in Eindhoven…

 

For those who haven’t witnessed last week’s match against AZ, just watch the resume. Because this match kind of summed up the entire season of PSV so far: for a long time it appeared the opponent looked like they were going to get a good result against the leader of the Eredivisie, but PSV turned the whole game upside down in just 5 minutes and went back to Eindhoven with 3 points and could watch main rival Ajax try to catch up the day after.

 

The day after
Ajax looked messy, but did what was necessary and won the match against Heracles Almelo, the number 11 on the Eredivisie ranking. There was a stoical atmosphere present at the Amsterdam ArenA, and logically so. The way PSV produced another Dillinger-type of escape in yet another game they seemingly were going to lose was an absolute downer for those who still had hope on keeping the title from going to Eindhoven. Ajax had invested a lot of money in their squad, switched between coaches and was hoping to win a first prize since their last in 2014. But now it appears the only thing left to fight for is to not get humiliated at the Philips Stadium.

 

 

Dream opponent Ajax in the championship game
The matches between Ajax and PSV are always important, and there’s always extra pressure on them. Supporters of both clubs absolutely want to win this game, either at home or away, but this time it’s different. It is only the second time in history that PSV can become national champions in a direct match against main rival Ajax at their own Philips Stadium in Eindhoven. With only 4 matches to go, PSV are leading with 7 points and will be champions if they win, because Ajax can’t make up a 10 point disadvantage in the remaining 3 matches.

A last motivational summing up of all things that make this match an ultimate one to win: In 2016, PSV became champions instead of Ajax on the last matchday, because PSV beat PEC in Zwolle but Ajax drew against De Graafschap in Doetinchem. 50 Years ago, PSV became champions at the expense of Ajax in a direct confrontation at the Philips Stadium. And that is possible to happen again, this Sunday.

What more do you want as supporter and player of this club? What more do you need to motivate yourself? Well, Ajax’ coach just fanned the flame even extra with his not-so-smart picked words in last week’s interview. If the Philips Stadium was electric before, it is now going to be out of this world for sure. It will be a hell of a lot more difficult to play a game you absolutely don’t want to lose than to grab a once in your lifetime possibility with both hands in a sold-out stadium with over 95% of the 35.000 supporters on your side.

 

Statistics
PSV and Ajax played against each other 155 times throughout history. PSV won 59 of these matches, Ajax won 68. PSV scored 249 goals, Ajax 274. In the Eredivisie competition, the teams met 131 times, of which PSV won 53 and Ajax won 54 matches. PSV scored 220 and Ajax scored 231 goals.

The numbers differ when you look at the statistics for home matches: PSV received Ajax 65 times at the Philips Stadium and beat them 31 times, scoring 129 goals and conceding 100. With a goal average of 1,98 for PSV and 1,54, you could expect at least a couple of goals this Sunday. Interestingly, PSV lost 3 of its 5 last home matches against the Amsterdammers, in which both clubs scored and conceded 8 goals in total.

 

 

The biggest victory for PSV was a 6-2 in Eindhoven in September of 1975 and April 2009, the biggest loss, the 5-0 in Amsterdam, took place in the season of 1958/1959. PSV beat Ajax 9 times while scoring 4 goals and 8 times while scoring 3 goals. 15,4% of the matches finished in a 1-1 draw, the highest percentage.

Since the new millennium, PSV beat Ajax 16 times in competition matches, Ajax beat PSV 11 times. Ajax became national champions 6 times since 2000, PSV 9 times, or 10 if you count this season along. Ajax took 4 national cups and 5 supercups, PSV won 2 national cups and 7 supercups. The difference altogether is that Ajax was the best in the former millennium, and PSV are dominating in the millennium. And they want to expand the lead, of course.

PSV hasn’t lost a home match in the Eredivisie since September 2016 and only conceded 9 goals at the Philips Stadium this season. Ten Hag lost all his matches as head coach in Eindhoven before his time as coach of Ajax. His teams scored 3 and conceded 17 goals. The last home match against de Godenzonen finished in a 1-0 victory for PSV, but the Boeren lost the match in Amsterdam this season with 3-0. This was at the time was Marcel Keizer was still head coach. But obviously, in this, PSV has another reason to make sure the 3 points stay in Eindhoven this time.

 

Personnel with a history in Amsterdam
PSV’s A-selection contains three players with a history in Amsterdam: Pablo Rosario was part of the Ajax Youth Academy between 2010 and 2014, Steven Bergwijn between 2009 and 2011 and upcoming talent Donyell Malen even from 2008 until 2015, after which he transferred to Arsenal.

 

 

Inversely, Ajax has some players with a history in Eindhoven: Klaas-Jan Huntelaar had Mateja Kežman and Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink before him between 2002 and 2004, after which he left the club. Until today, he still seems eager to prove PSV wrong for not getting a chance at the time. Siem de Jong, Luuk’s older brother, played on loan for PSV last year, after failing to claim a position in the basic eleven of Newcastle United.

Ajax head coach Erik ten Hag also has a history in Eindhoven as an assistant under Fred Rutten between 2009 and 2012, when Phillip Cocu was also a part-time assistant. You can say both coaches know each other well, but Cocu has much more experience as a player on the highest level (PSV, Barcelona, Dutch national team) as well as assistant coach (PSV, Dutch National team) and head coach for PSV, including all matches in Cup finals and the Champions League. On top of that, Cocu is much more comfortable in Eindhoven, where he has been under contract for years already, while ten Hag just signed in Amsterdam last winter, where it has been restless like ever before ever since.

 

 

Suspensions and injuries
Phillip Cocu has an almost completely fit selection to pick his basic players from. Only Maxi Romero is still injured, and no players are suspended. I have said this before, but it’s a fantastic job from the medical staff of PSV to keep all players fit throughout almost the entire season, and definitely to have a fit selection just before the championship game. If PSV takes their 24th national title this Sunday, it’s also because of those who are working behind the scenes.

 

Match Information
Match:                       PSV – Ajax
Date:                          Saturday 15 April 2018
Time:                         16:45
Location:                  Philips Stadion
Referee:                    Danny Makkelie
Broadcast:                Fox Sports Eredivisie
Tickets:                     SOLD OUT

 

For Eindhoven News: Joey van der Hart

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