The stakes are high in the Low Countries this weekend as the Belgian and Dutch UEFA Champions League representatives meet in domestic competition.
In the Netherlands, Group B hopefuls AFC Ajax travel to meet their Group E counterparts PSV Eindhoven, while over the border in Belgium, Group G contenders Club Brugge KV play host to RSC Anderlecht. However, perhaps strangely, none of the four sides are currently top of their respective leagues.
Dutch champions PSV Eindhoven are currently second in the Eredivisie, two points behind Feyenoord, while Ajax are a further five points adrift in fifth. In Belgium, Anderlecht are in second place and trail leaders R. Standard de Liège by a point, but Club Brugge are a further six points behind, also in fifth position.
Both Ajax and Club Brugge therefore find themselves in a similar position as they go into this weekend's games as neither can afford to lose any more ground on the leaders. However, Ajax's task looks a particularly onerous one as PSV have defeated AZ Alkmaar 3-0 and drawn at AC Milan in their last two games.
Ajax's last victory at PSV came in the 1994/95 season, a famous 4-1 success. However, the Amsterdam outfit have failed to win in all of their subsequent ten trips to Eindhoven, and can only hope that Yannis Anastasiou's two strikes against FC Thun marked the end of their goalscoring crisis.
PSV defender Michael Reiziger is in determined mood as he prepares to take on his former club. "I grew up at Ajax and have a lot to thank the club for, but if I want to become a champion with PSV, we have to win against Ajax," he said. "Although I would still prefer to win against Feyenoord."
This week brought mixed fortunes for Belgium's UEFA Champions League contenders, with Boško Balaban's goal giving Club Brugge a win at SK Rapid Wien, while Anderlecht lost their tenth successive UEFA Champions League tie and failed to find the target for the third European game in a row.
Goals have been much easier to come by in domestic football for Anderlecht, with Mbo Mpenza and Nenad Ještrovic having managed eight strikes apiece in their opening ten Belgian First Division games. "I do not agree we have a goalscoring problem in big matches," said Ještrovic. "In the UEFA Champions League you play the likes of [Sami] Hyypiä and [Marco] Materazzi - those are the best defenders around."
Anderlecht's hopes of overcoming Club Brugge have been hampered by an injury sustained by defender Hannu Tihinen during their defeat against Liverpool FC, while Walter Baseggio is suspended and Vincent Kompany is still out with a back injury. Club Brugge defender Birger Maertens will also miss the game, having picked up a muscle injury against Rapid.
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