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Dutch rivals in title showdown

Published: Friday 6 February 2004, 18.59CET
Traditional rivals AFC Ajax and PSV Eindhoven go into Sunday's Eredivisie match neck and neck in the title race.

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Published: Friday 6 February 2004, 18.59CET

Dutch rivals in title showdown

Traditional rivals AFC Ajax and PSV Eindhoven go into Sunday's Eredivisie match neck and neck in the title race.
Meetings between AFC Ajax and PSV Eindhoven rarely need added spice, but when they are neck and neck in the race for the Eredivisie title, such matches take on even more significance.

Ajax bid for century
Both sides have 46 points and began the weekend nine clear of third-played Feyenoord. Ajax, who have a game in hand and home advantage on Sunday, are striving for their 100th league win in their seven-year-old Amsterdam ArenA. However, they are well aware that not one of those victories has come against PSV, who last lost in Amsterdam in January 1995. This season, though, Ajax are yet to drop a point at home.

Shrewd signing
Ajax made a shrewd move earlier this week in signing striker Ioannis Anastasiou from Roda JC, and with Rafael van der Vaart and Wesley Sonck doubtful, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic definitely out after undergoing surgery on a groin problem, the Greek player's debut is even more eagerly anticipated. "It was clear where we had most trouble in the team," said Ajax coach Ronald Koeman. "So I specifically told the club board we needed a striker."

Injury problems
Bogdan Lobont, Jelle Van Damme, Hatem Trabelsi, Zdenek Grygera, Anthony Obodai, Steven Pienaar, Tom Soetaers and Jari Litmanen are further injury worries for Ajax, who drew 2-2 at PSV in October. Their depleted side, already out of Europe, was beaten at home by NAC Breda in the Dutch Cup earlier this week, meaning the league title is their final chance of silverware this season.

Robben the danger
Defender Grygera said: "We now have to win the championship, not least because we want to play [UEFA] Champions League football again next season." He concedes that Arjen Robben is PSV's key man. "He is constantly moving and always runs at you, time and time again," the Czech added. To combat Robben's pace, Grygera may be replaced by the 19-year-old Nigel de Jong.

Depleted PSV
PSV, meanwhile, have injury problems of their own. Dennis Rommedahl, Ernest Faber, André Ooijer, Kasper Bøgelund and John de Jong are all ruled out, and unlike Koeman, Guus Hiddink has not dipped into the transfer market. The PSV coach said of their rivals: "Apparently, that club has more money to spend than PSV."

Rommedahl loss
However, Hiddink will not be making any excuses. "Ajax also have a lot of injuries, at least that is what I read in the newspapers," he said. "We are missing a few big names, but I do not want to talk about the ones who cannot play. However, it is clear that we could do with being able to use someone like Rommedahl at the moment. With his speed, assists and goals he is extremely valuable to us."

Last updated: 07/02/04 22.56CET

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