With the UEFA Champions League and Europa League draws just over a week away, Alex Royal previews the Eredivisie sides involved in European competition. 

The Netherlands have lost their automatic European places for this season, due to being ranked 13th in the UEFA coefficient. This ranking usually means that no Dutch club is actually guaranteed to be playing in the group stage of either competition. However, this does not apply this season.

Unfortunately, we now have to accept that guaranteed European football is now a privilege, and no longer a divine right. With a meagre coefficient score of just 2.900 for all five sides last season, now is the time for Dutch clubs to be stand up, earn some valuable coefficient points and be counted amongst Europe’s elite.

I’m going to preview the chances of all the teams involved, and also some of the opponents they could face along the way.

PSV Eindhoven

Lowdown

The only Dutch club guaranteed group stage football this season, with the burning question – Champions League or Europa League?

PSV will enter the Champions League play-off round. Normally, this would be the third qualifying round, but as the title holders (Real Madrid) have already qualified based on their league position, Czech champions Viktoria Plzen have been promoted straight into the group stage, thus promoting PSV into the play-off round.

PSV have the advantage of being seeded, which in theory means ‘easier’ opponents, usually from a lower ranked country. The Eindhoveners also have the guarantee of the Europa League to fall back on should they fail to get into the Champions League.

Opponents to avoid 

I would consider these teams ones that PSV would like to avoid:-

BSC Young Boys – Emphatic champions of Switzerland last season, ending FC Basel’s title streak, playing some great football along the way. Young Boys are definitely a side on the up and aren’t one to underestimate.

Qarabag – Azeri champions who are a solid and well-organised outfit. Proved that they weren’t there to make up the numbers when qualifying for the group stage last season, gaining draws home and away against Atlético Madrid. Azerbaijan is not an easy place to go to, especially if a team needs a result.

Ajax

Lowdown

The Amsterdam side sealed their European qualification spot by finishing second. They start in the second qualifying round of the Champions League, in the league path and will face either PAOK or Sturm Graz. Should Ajax reach get into the third qualifying round, they are guaranteed a Europa League group stage spot at the very least.

Opponents to avoid

Ajax are seeded through to the play-off round, which means they will face a tricky tie to reach the group stage, should they get past their first two rounds. There are still some potentially dangerous opponents who they could meet in their first two rounds of qualification:-

PAOK – Runners-up to AEK Athens in the Greek Superleague, PAOK will be gunning for revenge on Ajax, after the Amsterdam side beat them in qualification for the same competition 2 years ago.

Spartak Moscow – Most people will know Spartak as the team that Quincy Promes plays for, but they are not a one-man band! Spartak acquitted themselves well in the Champions League last season, finishing third in a group with eventual runners-up Liverpool.

AZ Alkmaar

Lowdown

Entry into Europa League second qualifying round means AZ have to negotiate 6 games to reach the group stage. They will be seeded all the way through qualification, which means easier opponents. The Alkmaarders are already a well-established side in Europe and should make it to the group stage barring accidents.

Opponents to avoid

The Europa League throws up some really obscure teams, especially in the early qualifying rounds. AZ should have a relatively trouble-free passage, there are, however, a few teams that they will be hoping to avoid:-

Istanbul Basaksehir – The team that have come closest to breaking Turkey’s ‘big 3’ dominance in recent years, Basaksehir are a good footballing side. Under the guidance of Abdullah Avci, the Istanbul side have finished 2nd & 3rd in the last two Turkish Süper Lig’s. Their squad includes some familiar names, mainly Eljero Elia, but also Emmanuel Adebayor and Gael Clichy.

RB Leipzig – With the east German side being fairly new on the European scene, they have a fairly low UEFA club ranking. Last season, having finished third in their Champions League group, they then reached the quarter finals of the Europa League. RB are a team that seeded clubs will want to avoid and it’s possible that AZ could meet them in the play-off round.

Feyenoord

Lowdown

Winners of the KNVB Beker, Feyenoord sealed their ticket with an impressive win over AZ in the final. They enter the third qualifying round of the Europa League.

Seeding is complicated, as Feyenoord’s club ranking means that they could be unseeded in the play-off round, despite being seeded in the round they enter.

Opponents to avoid

As I’ve explained above, seeding is complicated, but there are opponents, seeded and unseeded that Feyenoord would want to avoid:-

Sevilla – Five time winners of the Europa League, with all five titles coming in the last 12 years and proven European campaigners. Feyenoord could face them if they are unseeded in the play-off round.

Of the teams to avoid if they are seeded, then like AZ, I would say RB Leipzig & Istanbul Basaksehir.

Vitesse

Lowdown

Vitesse booked their place in the Europa League second qualifying round by beating Utrecht in the European play offs. After a disappointing campaign last season, the men from Arnhem will be hoping for better this time round. Like AZ, they face 6 games to get to the group stage.

Of the sides involved in European campaigns this season, Vitesse are the team that I have the least confidence in.

Opponents to avoid

Vitesse face a daunting task getting into the group stage, as they will be unseeded from the third qualifying round. Should they get that far, it is essentially a “take your pick” of proven European sides. These include powerhouses such as Zenit St Petersburg, Besiktas, Olympiakos and Sevilla.




Alex Royal (6 Posts)

22 year old from the UK, Middlesbrough fan but have a huge passion for Dutch football in general, especially the Eredivisie. I try and get over when it doesn't clash with Middlesbrough games.