The Eredivisie kicks of this Friday and the 2018/19 season is set to be a thriller. Here is all you need to know ahead of the new campaign.

Who will be in the title race?

Defending champions PSV Eindhoven are under new management this season with Mark van Bommel coming in for Phillip Cocu and they will face stiff competition for their crown from an Ajax side that has spent big and an experienced Feyenoord still buoyed by the return of Robin van Persie.

Ajax is currently the bookie’s favourites for the title after spending big this summer on Daley Blind and Dusan Tadic, while they have managed to keep hold of Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong despite big interest. Erik ten Hag had his doubters last season but the early performances in the Champions League qualifiers have been promising.

Van Bommel’s PSV looked good during pre-season and have also managed to keep hold of their key trio Jeroen Zoet, Luuk de Jong and Hirving Lozano. The signing of Denzel Dumfries will cover the loss of Santiago Arias well and the Eindhoven side definitely has the quality and experience to retain the title and make an impression in the Champions League.

Then there is Feyenoord, who struggled at the start of last season and finished fourth. However, Robin van Persie’s return in January lifted the club and their KNVB Cup and Johan Cruijff Schaal wins have given them confidence. Steven Berghuis and Nicolai Jorgensen have been retained, while Jordy Clasie is back to cover the void left by Karim El Ahmadi.

All three clubs look strong and confident and it should be a close battle for the title. AZ Alkmaar will also be looking to challenge but losing Alireza Jahanbakhsh and Wout Weghorst means John van den Brom’s side goes into the season expected to finish fourth.

The battle for Europe

Ajax, PSV and Feyenoord will be battling it out for the title and the main European spots, along with AZ Alkmaar, but a number of clubs will be aiming to reach the end of season playoffs.

Vitesse under new head coach Leonid Slutsky will be aiming to battle for fourth, while Utrecht, PEC Zwolle, Heerenveen and Groningen all have ambitions to crack the top eight. ADO Den Haag finished highly last season and will be aiming to do so again, but may struggle without top scorer Bjorn Johnsen.

The battle at the bottom

FC Twente was surprisingly relegated during the 2017/18 campaign and this season could see any of eight or nine teams dragged into the bottom three.

Newly promoted trio Fortuna Sittard, FC Emmen and De Graafschap go into the season as the favourites for the drop, but VVV-Venlo has lost some key players this summer and are expected to be involved. Excelsior without Mitchell van der Gaag could also struggle, while Willem II, Heracles Almelo and NAC Breda haven’t had great pre-seasons and could easily be pulled in.

Last season, the battle for the bottom three went to the final day of the season and it could be another fascinating and close call this year.

The three promoted sides

Fortuna Sittard: From nearly going out of business to being promoted in a few years, Fortuna Sittard’s rise was unexpected but they went up automatically last season after finishing second to Jong Ajax, who can’t be promoted. Coached by René Eijer, Fortuna head into their first top-flight campaign since 2002 looking to establish themselves as an Eredivisie side. Forwards Andrija Novakovich and Lisandro Semedo will be key to survival.

De Graafschap: The Super Farmers are back in the top flight after only one season in the Eerste Divisie and they will be hoping not to become a Yo-yo club. Coached by Henk Fraser, De Graafschap came through the playoffs last season, defeating Almere City to earn their Eredivisie return. Summer signings have been ok but the squad looks short of genuine quality and they could struggle to compete this season.

FC Emmen: A fairytale season for FC Emmen, who will be competing in the top flight for the first time after defeating Sparta Rotterdam in the playoffs. Dick Lukkien’s side finished seventh in the regular season and wasn’t expected to gain promotion but they were excellent in the playoffs and their fans can now look forward to a maiden Eredivisie campaign. Pre-season results have been good and the squad heads into the campaign with confidence. Like De Graafschap, the team is lacking quality but they are riding a wave and could prove to be this season’s surprise package.

There will be goals

On average, the Eredivisie has more goals per game than any of the top five European leagues and this year is set to be no different.

The focus on attacking football coupled with some dodgy defences mean that goals are plentiful in the Netherlands. Last season there were 960 goals across 306 games which is an average of 3.1 per game.

There were only 13 0-0 draws in those 306 games too.

The race for the golden boot

There are a number of forwards looking to take the top goalscorer award this year. PSV duo Hirving Lozano and Luuk de Jong will be many people’s top picks, but they will face competition.

Ajax have both Kasper Dolberg and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar looking to fire the Amsterdammers to the title, while Robin van Persie could roll back the years at Feyenoord to take the prize. However, Nicolai Jorgensen looks the more likely option from Rotterdam.

At AZ Alkmaar, Bjorn Johnsen will be aiming to replicate his form from last season while Tim Matavz has started the campaign in fine form for Vitesse Arnhem. Sam Lammers could make a big impression at Heerenveen, while Andrija Novakovich at Fortuna Sittard and Fran Sol at Willem II could be outside bets.

Luuk de Jong remains the most likely option though with the target man set to benefit from the deliveries of Denzel Dumfries and Angelino this season.

The key players to watch

Hirving Lozano

The forward has been heavily linked with a move away from PSV since starring for Mexico at the World Cup but at the moment he remains in Eindhoven.

Lozano was exceptional for PSV last season with his 17 goals and eight assists last season a big reason why the club lifted the Eredivisie Schaal. The tricky winger, who has plenty of pace and is an excellent finisher, will be aiming to impress in the Eredivisie again but also make an impression in the Champions League.

Robin van Persie

The veteran returned to Feyenoord last season and instantly lifted the club and inspired them to the KNVB Cup trophy.

In what could be his final season in football, van Persie will wear the captain’s armband and will be hoping to inspire Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side to the title.

Van Persie lined up last season as an attacking midfielder and is expected to do the same this year, although he could fill in for Nicolai Jorgensen up front.

Frenkie de Jong

Barcelona tried hard to sign the 21-year-old this summer but De Jong is still in Amsterdam and is expected to shine for Ajax this season.

De Jong excelled last season as a Libero, but he is set to be deployed in his preferred position in midfield and will look to prove why he is so highly-rated.

An excellent dribbler with great vision and passing ability, De Jong will be a joy to watch this season and should also make his debut in the Netherlands XI.

The young talents to watch

Matthijs de Ligt, Steven Bergwijn and Donny van de Beek are all well-known youngsters in the Eredivisie but there are plenty of others looking to make their breakthrough this season.

Calvin Stengs, Myron Boadu, Donyell Malen and Kaj Siehuis are just some of the young talents that could be household names by the end of the season.

For our top 50 U21 talents to watch this season, click here.

VAR

The KNVB have been big advocates of bringing video assistant referee’s into football but it has been absent from the Eredivisie until now. This season will see VAR implemented across the league and judging by the World Cup it will certainly raise plenty of talking points throughout the campaign.

The new technology is already being used in Italy and Germany to good effect and it will be interesting to see how it goes down in the Eredivisie.




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