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2017-18 Eredivisie Preview

Friday 11th August 2017
The 62nd Eredivisie kicks off this weekend. Feyenoord look to repeat. PSV want their turn. Ajax hasn't won in four years. Which will highlight the Lowlands?

Dutch football is back. The Netherlands' top flight was once the equal of any league. Now, it is a hotbed, fostering young talent for the biggest clubs on the continent.

Three major club have hoovered up Dutch titles and KNVB Cups over the years: Ajax of Amsterdam, Feyenoord in the nation's second city, Rotterdam, and PSV Eindhoven, owned by technology giant Phillips. Ajax and PSV have respectively won the league 33 and 23 times. Feyenoord lifted the trophy last season, for the 15th time. They traditionally comprise the Eredivisie's power trio and are most likely to populate the top three spots in the table again this season.
Despite not winning a trophy last year, Ajax still had a good season. They reached the Europa League final, losing to Manchester United, although they played perhaps the game of the tournament against Lyon. In recent years, de Godenzonen have picked up a nasty reputation for being a feeder club to more luxurious teams. Sons of Gods, indeed. Edward Bennett wrote an informative piece for Caught Offside, demonstrating the Dutch giants certainly have no issue attracting players, just retaining them.

The same trend has long applied to coaches, as well. This year, the side line up with former player and youth team coach, Marcel Keizer, in charge. Following in Frank de Boer, Martin Jol, and Ronald Koeman's footsteps, Peter Bosz left to manage Borussia Dortmund. Keizer inherits a team that won no silverware last season. Getting his hands on some gold would reignite the winning mentality, long a staple in Amsterdam's culture.

The manager has been busy in the transfer market. There's good reason for Ajax followers to be excited. Klass-Jan Huntelaar has returned to the club after a nine-year absence. The 33-year-old has a legacy within the Eredivisie and a certain cult status with the club itself. In 92 appearances, he has scored 76 goals.
In addition, Keizer also picked up Colombian defender Luis Manuel Orejuela, the brightest light in a staunch Deportivo Cali defence. The right-back also has an eye for goal, making him ideal for clubs adopting fashionable back three formations.

The season will have a familiar feel, with Europa League play again in the cards. Still, a new boss and Huntelaar's experience should add substance to the team's well-known style.

Looking back,PSV Eindhoven will be trying to forget all about last season. Third in the league, last in its champions league group and an abbreviated KNVB cup run formed an altogether forgettable year.

Somehow, Phillip Cocu retained his job as manager. This will be his fourth year in control. He will be eager to prove 2016-17 was an aberration and the consecutive league titles preceding it are the norm.

Transfer activity has been limited for a downward-trending side. More players have departed the Philips Stadion than arrived. Although, one newcomer could become the Eredivisie player of the season. At only 22, Hirving Lozano already has heaps of silverware to his name from his time with Mexican powerhouse Pachuca. He won both the Liga MX title and CONCACAF Champions League while being widely celebrated as one of the best players on the continent. He's also made a name for himself with El Tri, scoring key goals for the national team. De Boeren's season may rest on his ability to settle in.
Feyenoord enters the season as champion. Henceforth, with the weight of expectations to do it again. Although de club aan de Maas is among Dutch football's elite clubs, 2016-17 was its first league crown since 1998-99. A new generation of Feyenoord fans saw their club win for the first time.

Former Arsenal and Barcelona standout, Giovanni van Bronckhorst, has created a team with amazing firepower. Nicolai Jørgensen, the Dane, finished as the top goal scorer, with 21. Jens Toornstra was also prolific, contributing 14. Club icon Dirk Kuyt, bagged a few himself, including a requisite hat-trick against Heracles. His success may even have prompted Ajax to bring back Huntelaar.

In the end, Feyenoord simply scored their way to the top. Albeit without Kuyt, the side will look to light up de Kuip again. Given the nature of his triumph, Van Bronckhorst's shopping list isn't too long. He's somehow retained both Jørgensen and Toornstra, a godsend. Tightening up at the back and adding a third forward to replace the retired Kuyt are his only needs.

Striking a theme with his recruiting, the gaffer is favouring Dutch talent. Steven Berghuis is officially a Feyenoord player again. He had transferred to Watford, only to be loaned and now sold back. Kevin Diks has been loaned out by Fiorentina. Van Bronckhorst has the tools to repeat as champion. Now his side must go out and do the job.
What about the rest then?

FC Utrecht finished fourth last season and could try to improve on that.

Unfortunately, as is the way with Dutch football, it was bullied into selling its best players. Top scorer Sébastien Haller is now in Frankfurt. Youth sensation Sofyan Amrabat was picked up by Feyenoord.

One step forward, two back.

ADO Den Haag was exciting to watch last season. At one stage, they looked set for relegation. Mike Havenaar's end of season heroics fashioned a great escape. He's left the club to play Japanese football. Do you detect a pattern?

Nevertheless, the club from The Hague catches the eye. Alfons Groenendijk's squad may pick up where they left off in May.

Expect a fierce battle for the top places, with the power three leading the pack. Others could well surprise us. There are potential stars spread throughout the Eredivisie. The question is whether any smaller club can offer a sustained push? AZ Alkmaar and Vitesse made the KNVB cup final last year. Nothing is impossible.

All too often, however, such sides prove shooting stars. Consider FC Twente. Under Steve McClaren, they threatened to establish a new order. Since his departure, the Enschede club has become a mid-table outfit.

The new Eredivisie season officially kicks off at 6 pm GMT, tonight, Friday, 11th of August. ADO den Haag host FC Utrecht. Enjoy.
Warren Smith

Yokohama F•Marinos supporter. Seen it all in the J.League, relegation fights and being crowned champions. Play five-a-side, pretty good too. Once scored an overhead kick.

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