New players will be heavily counted upon, a new coach is in place and of course there is the big three to worry about. These are the same shadows of doubt that overcast Twente Enschede last season en route to its first ever Eredivisie title, this season will be no different.
Seen as somewhat of a surprise to claim Dutch dominance last year, Twente finished in the top four for three seasons prior. So rather than count this group of Tukkers out, expect another run to the top.
Much like last season, the road to glory will be far from clear and even a little bumpy at times, but should prove to be another thrilling finish.
Let’s take a look at the teams vying to knock off the champs this season:
ADO Den Haag:
A dysfunctional bunch, ADO narrowly escaped relegation this summer. Alles Door Oefening translated means Everything Through Practice, which the men of green and yellow will need much of this season. Led by midfielder Lex Immers and defender Danny Buijs, the squad will hope that new transfer Dmitry Bulykin can blossom into the game-changer they are expecting.
Predicted finish: 17th
Former Heracles Almelo man, Gertjan Verbeek, takes over at AZ. Winner of the Eredivisie two years ago, AZ were crippled by a poor start and the pressures of Champions League play, but rebounded well to finish in fifth place. Leading goal scorer, Mounir El Hamdaoui has left for Ajax, so there is question where the goals will come from this season. The addition of very promising Kevin Valkenburg will help ease the loss of El Hamdaoui as AZ aims to compete at the top once again.
Predicted finish: 4th place
The Godenzonen will look very similar to last years team that finished so strong. The lone noticeable change will be El Hamdaoui in for Marko Pantelic at the central striker role. A new cast of young and talented players, including Gregory van der Wiel, Siem de Jong, Nicholas Lodeiro and Urby Emanuelson all received invaluable first-team time last season. Optimism around Amsterdam ArenA says that Ajax second-half form will carry over and run throughout the season, all the way to the Eredivisie crown. If Jol, Suarez and company can display that kind of form for a whole season the title is surely theirs to lose.
Predicted finish: 1st
Back in the Eredivisie again, De Graafschap is saying all the right things, after an impressive first-place finish in the Eerste Divisie last season. So far it’s done the right things as well. Additions of goalkeeper, Boy Waterman and forward, Rydell Poepon are a good start, but far from what will be needed. The Superboeren also bring with them, Hugo Bargas, a 23-year-old striker, who netted 16 goals a year ago. Avoiding relegation won’t be easy, but won’t be impossible either.
Predicted finish: 14th
The Eredivisies other new side, gained promotion with an upset victory over Sparta Rotterdam. One of the younger teams in the league, Excelsior also lacks the funds to support itself in top-flight Dutch football. The Kralingers will likely find themselves back in the Eerste Divisie a year from now.
Predicted finish: 18th
Not really expected to challenge for a spot in Europe last season, The Green-White Army snuck into the last qualification spot. Groningen would love to re-do the first half of its season as early losses found them near the bottom of the table, but the team gelled rather well and managed a mid-table finish. Led by the heroics of Slovenian national team striker, Tim Matavz, Groningen will be hungry for another shot at Europa League.
Predicted finish: 9th
Management at Utrecht took a risk last season signing several young Dutchmen, hoping that something beautiful would blossom. Well, it did. A seventh-place finish has Utreg looking up at the top of the table this season. The off season saw an Austalian influx with Tommy Oar, Adam Sarota and Michael Zullo all coming over from Brisbane Roar. Their transition to Dutch football will be important for Utrecht, who will rely on budding stars Dries Mertens and Ricky van Wolfswinkel to take that next step. Expect Utrecht to pull a few upsets at home against the leagues upper echelon.
Predicted finish: 6th
A fourth-place finish last season was seen as a disappointing season for the men of Rotterdam. A league-leading 12 draws, along with a +23 goal differential suggests that Feyenoord was better than its record would indicate. But one would be hard pressed to say they have improved. Roy Makaay and Giovanni van Bronckhorst have hung up their playing boots, leaving Jon Dahl Tomasson left to to carry the load. The maturation of Giorginio Wijnaldum will be the key to awakening Slapende Reus (The Sleeping Giant).
Predicted finish: 5th place
Maybe the biggest disappointment of last season, Heerenveen fell to 11th in the table. More changes have been made after two coaches were dismissed throughout the year. Regulars such as Gerald Sibon have been let go and Heerenveen have acquired the talents of former Heracles man, Bas Dost. The talented u-21 Netherlands player will pair with Roy Beerens and Serbian starlet Filip Duricic to create a formidable attack.
Predicted finish: 7th
Former boss, Gertjan Verbeek has left for AZ and leading scorer Bas Dost to Heerenveen. Hopes of repeating last years surprise sixth-place finish seem dim. New coach Peter Bosz comes over from the Feyenoord organization and will continue the all-out attacking ways. Willy Overtoom and Everton Ramos da Silva will be expected to pick the load.
Predicted finish: 8th
An aging squad that failed to find any new blood in this summers transfer window. The NAC will need plenty of support from a trio of veteran strikers, Anthony Luring, Matthew Amoah and Leonardo as there is little fight left in this Yellow Army. Anything above a mid-table finish would be quite surprising for this side.
Predicted finish: 12th
Another mid-table squad whose hopes of success rest on potential and promise. 19-year-old striker, Rick ten Voorde has been labeled “little van Basten”, and in the Netherlands those are big boots to fill. NEC will get Danish midfielder Lasse Schone back from injury. They had their moments last season, but were rather inconsistent. If ten Voorde fills his lofty expectations and Schone returns to his “player of the year” form (voted on by NEC supporters in ‘08) then NEC could make some noise this year.
Predicted finish: 13th
The title appeared to be theirs last season, before a titanic fall in the second-half of the season. The fall-off appeared to coincide with the sale of Danko Lazovic to Zenit St. Petersburg. And rumors continue to circle Philips Stadion that Ibrahim Afellay is on his way out as well, but PSV continue to stand firm. The Red White Army stand to have had the best summer of all, adding quality in the form of Jeremain Lens, Marcus Berg and Marcelo. Barring any kind of second-half collapse, PSV will most certainly be considered the favorites to win the title.
Predicted finish: 2nd
Think the little engine that could. Roda is by far one of the smaller clubs in the Eredivisie, and has been formed by the merger of smaller clubs in the past. Another merger with a few smaller clubs (including VVV Venlo) has been discussed. At times De Limburgers played like the big clubs it so desires to emulate, yet at other times it played more to its size and was little of any challenge to others. The conductor to this train is on-loan striker, Mads Junker, who netted 21 goals in his ‘10 campaign.
Predicted finish: 10th
The champs return with a new cast of players, a new coach and a chip on their shoulder. The way in which it closed the season was not to the standards at which it preformed throughout the beginning months. Michael Preud’homme takes over for the departed Steve McClaren and his slowed down approach to Dutch football. Marc Janko should prove to be more than an adequate replacement for the aging Blaise N’Kufo, who left for the Seattle Sounders. The club also has high hopes for 22-year-old Emir Bajrami. The biggest question surrounds goalscorer, Bryan Ruiz and whether he will be around all season to help defend the title?
Predicted finish: 3rd
Strapped by financial issues, Vitesse was forced to sell several of its regular first-team players. Future national-team goalkeeper, Piet Velthuizen remains, for now. Vitesse did manage to secure one player this summer, defender, Luca Caldirola, from Inter Milan. While he will help Velthuizen and the rest of the defense, this team will struggle to score and ultimately fail to win matches.
Predicted finish: 16th
Last season was a tale of two halfs for Venlo, with Japanese star Keisuke Honda and without him. The Good Old surprised many in the first half, with Honda directing things, but fell apart after his transfer to CSKA Moskow. Venlo enters the new campaign hoping to strike it rich again with some foreign imports, as players from Portugal, Nigeria and Japan have been brought in to compete for time.
Predicted finish: 11th
Willem II Tilburg:
Named after a former King to the country of the Netherlands, the Tricolores finished in a club-worst 17th place a year ago. Sadly there is little to think that this season will be any better. The addition of Yevgeniy Levchenko to the midfield will bring a calming presence, but the Ukrainian will need more help around him. Avoiding relegation will be a success for this squad.
Predicted finish: 15th