Ajax and PSV facing each other before the winter break is that match that gripped all the attention before the winter break. It has come at the perfect for the two coaches who have the chance to inspire their players before the winter break and second half of the season. The players will need the inspiration to progress in different ways so there are many entertaining sub-plots to this match.

  • By Chaka Simbeye
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ajapsv-gvgFeyenoord manager Giovanni Van Bronchorst spoke of a ‘dark cloud’ that ensconced his team on their winter-break as they lost their last match before it against NEC Nijmegen and neither Ajax nor PSV would want that hanging over them for a month. PSV have stuttered and stumbled to the winter-break in comparison with the past three years of Cocu’s tenure while an away loss to FC Twente ended a run of 20 games without defeat in all competitions for Ajax.

The last two games between the two have begun with early goals as Gaston Pereiro took 7 minutes to open his PSV account in his first start during their first meeting last season while it took just under a minute for Joel Veltman to ping an accurate early cross that was dispatched by Arek Milik. An early goal would be welcomed with both teams looking to impose their style and end the first half of the season on good terms. The teams are separated by three points with Ajax in second and PSV in third as they both look to get closer to league leaders, Feyenoord.

Phillip Cocu will welcome back Andres Guardado and Jorrit Hendrix as Davy Propper will probably move higher in their midfield three while Ajax will be without an injured Bertrand Traore and a suspended Nick Viergever. Academy graduates Anwar El Ghazi and Jairo Riedewald will be given a chance to stake their claims for a starting spot as the first man to score against Luis Enrique’s Barcelona and a man who announced himself to the world with a brace on his debut are now on the outside looking in. El Ghazi will know a good performance would be imperative with Traore at the African Cup of Nations in January next year while he can take confidence of having scored two goals against PSV at the Phillips Stadion in the last two years.

PSV can take confidence in that during the last two years, victory in this fixture has gone the way of the away side. However, Cocu’s team are not exuding the confidence that is required to beat the strongest Ajax team in the last few years. The loss of Jeffrey Bruma proved one loss too many as few defenders could replace the authority in which he went about defending and with which he brought the ball out of the back. The title-holders slumped out of the UEFA Champions League after a draw against the same team that knocked Ajax out of the same competition, FC Rostov.

Cocu will need to restructure his midfield and attack in order to fit the experience and elegance of Guardado, the box-to-box monster that is Propper, the youthful zeal of Bart Ramselaar or Oleksandr Zinchenko or the goalscoring prowess of Siem De Jong. It has become likely that Luciano Narsingh will leave in January for money while Cocu is awaiting the return of Jurgen Locadia and the further development of Steven Bergwijn while Pereiro who is the team’s top scorer continues to frustratingly blow hot and cold. Luuk De Jong is a confidence player to his core and the fact that he has taken the most shots and scored a paltry sum compared to his last two years has not helped.

Cocu allowed De Jong to take penalties to regain his confidence and his feel for hitting the back of the net two years ago as not even that has worked as PSV have missed a majority of their penalties. The team seems to be embroiled in a mental crisis as a team that has the luxury of Ramselaar in their midfield barely play through the centre and instead fling crosses to De Jong. The release of the large sums that they pay in salaries to a team that has begun the season so underwhelmingly has not helped the situation. The club and Jetro Willems have been in contract extension talks for over a year which finally came to an end with the left back signing on for another year past the end of this season.

Even Willems has struggled as his renewal has not been met with the elation that it would have received six months ago, given that it is only a year long and he has failed to respond after being substituted at half time against Bayern Munich at home earlier this season. A good performance against Ajax could kick start his season going into the winter break while giving Cocu the time to give his team the much needed restructure they need. One hopes that a team built around the talents of Hendrix, Ramselaar, Bergwijn and Sam Lammers in the near future will be much better at moving the ball around.

Peter Bosz had the chance to rest his Ajax side during the week as Ajax’ youngsters were embarrasingly eliminated from the KNVB Beker by Eerste Divisie side Cambuur. His first team will return refreshed as they hope to send a signal to Feyenoord by beating the most disheveled PSV team of the last two years. Davinson Sanchez and Riedewald will be tasked with keeping De Jong at bay as they could prove to Bosz that they work as a partnership as a solid performance against Celta was ruined by a Riedewald mistake a few months back. Mitchell Dijks or Daley Sinkgraven will have the chance to marginalise PSV on the right wing against either Pereiro or Narsingh.

His side will certainly be more forceful as they will look to press PSV high and win the ball as soon as possible which could work in PSV’s favour with the prospect of Narsingh getting behind their high defensive line. There is also the prospect of the battle of the aging pint-sized midfielders in Lasse Schone and Guardado as both have been repurposed as deep-lying playmakers after struggling higher up the pitch after the age of 25. Nicolas Ismait-Mirin and Hector Moreno will have to contend with Kasper Dolberg who has scored double the amount of goals De Jong has scored. Dolberg and Klaassen have scored a combined 16 goals including penalties which is the number that PSV’s top five scorers have reached combined in the first half of the season.

El Ghazi has the chance to test Willems which will prove to be an interesting battle as the former has responded well since he was sent to train and play with Jong Ajax for a month after a disagreement with Bosz. The nimble and fleet footed Amin Younes who scored in this fixture last season will hope to finally open his account in the Eredivisie against PSV. The German’s tussle against the abrasive Santiago Arias always poses an intriguing battle on the other flank. Ajax had found their momentum to devastating effect before the match against FC Twente and will be looking for a win over their rivals to put themselves in the perfect position to start again in January.

Bosz will not be sweating over his team’s two losses in the last week while Cocu will be buoyed by a slender victory against Go Ahead Eagles and more importantly the returns of Guardado and Hendrix. Cocu desperately needs to win this match to get the wind back in his team’s sails as he executes his restructure during the winter break as if he manages to salvage this season, it could act as further proof of his immense ability as a manager. His more experienced counterpart could really get the Ajax fans believing in a proper title charge come the second half of the season. Cocu is facing his toughest period as a manager while Bosz has largely enjoyed his dream job as this game breeds opportunity for them and their respective squads.

Chaka Simbeye (69 Posts)