Sunday could prove a crucial day in the 2006/07 Eredivisie as two lunchtime fixtures bring together last season's top four. The front two from last term, AZ Alkmaar and PSV Eindhoven, renew their rivalry but there will be even more interest as leaders AFC Ajax take on Feyenoord in what is considered the true Dutch classic.
It has been a good start for Ajax, a point clear of unbeaten AZ, but Feyenoord are seven adrift after seven matches, appropriately enough in seventh place. The loss of striker Dirk Kuyt to Liverpool FC is still being felt in Rotterdam, although the visit of Ajax will be a big moment for Angelos Charisteas, who left the Amsterdam club to join Feyenoord as Kuyt's replacement just before the transfer window closed.
Although league position is against Feyenoord, their fanatical support can expect to see more of the fighting spirit which has marked their campaign so far. They have lost just twice despite trailing in seven of their matches, including at UEFA Cup group-stage opponents FC Basel 1893 on Thursday, when Stein Huysegems's equaliser averted 1-0 defeat. A reverse here would be a huge blow as Feyenoord seek to keep in touch with the leading trio. Ajax, meanwhile, have lost striker Ryan Babel to a knee injury.
AZ and champions PSV, in second and third, know victory in Alkmaar will take them into pole position should Ajax slip. Both are coming off excellent European results: PSV won 2-1 at Galatasaray SK on Wednesday and look odds-on to reach the UEFA Champions League last 16; AZ beat SC Braga 3-0 to make early progress in their UEFA Cup group. Nonetheless, AZ coach Louis van Gaal wants to keep his players' feet on the ground, recalling the equivalent fixture in February. PSV struck twice in the opening six minutes, prevailed by 2-1, and streaked clear in the title race. Van Gaal warned: "If we don't start well, it is possible that just like last year we will be two down inside ten minutes."
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