Today's game between Feyenoord and PSV Eindhoven is one of the most important matches in the Netherlands this season.
Top of the table PSV need a win against fourth-placed Feyenoord to maintain the gap between them and surprise challengers AZ Alkmaar, who moved to within two points of the leaders with a 5-0 Saturday win against FC Twente, while the Rotterdam side know they cannot afford to drop further off the Eredivisie pace.
Eleven points behind PSV, Feyenoord's first target must be to make up ground on AZ. A second-place finish in the Netherlands guarantees UEFA Champions League football - something that a club of Feyenoord's ambitions cannot afford to miss out on.
However, if Feyenoord are to win, they first have to find a way through a PSV defence which recently broke Ajax's 33-year record of going 1,082 minutes without conceding a league goal. Their unbeaten run currently stands at 1,110 minutes - and 12 league games.
Feyenoord's 'K2' strike partners could be the ones to end that sequence. Dirk Kuijt and Salomon Kalou lead the goalscoring charts with 13 and ten league goals respectively from 15 outings. Thus today's match will pit the best defence in the Netherlands against the best attack.
The big question is whether Tuesday's 4-1 Champions League defeat at Panathinaikos FC has unsettled PSV. Defender Wilfred Bouma hopes not. "That game underlined that we still have to work very hard in every single match, time and again," he said.
Captain Mark van Bommel, who forms the experienced core of the PSV team along with Phillip Cocu - who played his 100th European game against Panathinaikos - refused to be downhearted. "It is better to concede four goals in one match than one goal in four matches," he said.
Feyenoord coach Ruud Gullit is ready to adjust his three-man defence that has served him so well recently in order to deal with PSV's attacking triumvirate. The former Feyenoord and PSV player held a training session behind closed doors at the De Kuip on Thursday - a very rare occurrence - to try out new tactics. That only underlines how important the game is for both sides. Eleven points may look like a huge gap but - for prestige if nothing else - this remains a match that neither can afford to lose.
©UEFA.com 1998-2013. All rights reserved.