Left despairing after PSV Eindhoven won the title last weekend, AZ Alkmaar and AFC Ajax can get their hands on a trophy as they meet in Sunday's Dutch Cup final.
In one of the most dramatic league finales on record, PSV claimed the title by a single goal from Ajax after AZ - who went into the final day top of the table - lost their last match. However, the two unfortunate clubs have a chance to take something from the season at the De Kuip Stadium in Rotterdam as they meet in the Dutch Cup final. The two highest scoring sides in the Eredivisie this season, a meeting between Ajax and AZ should promise an exciting game, provided their players have recovered from last week's exertions. "Some players have coped better with it than others," said Ajax coach Henk ten Cate. "You can still see it in the expressions on some players' faces. We were so close."
Treat for neutrals
Jaap Stam and Hedwiges Maduro are expected to be fit to face AZ, although Zdeněk Grygera and Leonardo will not make it. "It will become an interesting match - the best imaginable finale for the neutral fan," said Ten Cate, adding cheekily: "I expect it to become a close race, in which we will win 3-2." In Alkmaar, a similar process of recovery is under way. "I am still feeling the pain too," said AZ coach Louis van Gaal. "I have talked with the players, as a group and individually. There is no reason why we cannot play well on Sunday, whether we have coped with our disappointment or not. We have had a fantastic season, but obviously we need a trophy to go with it."
AZ have won in all of their three Dutch Cup final appearances to date, beating Ajax in 1978 and 1981 before overcoming FC Utrecht in 1982. Goalkeeper Boy Waterman will be suspended for Sunday's game following his dismissal in the final league match of the season, while custodian Joey Didulica, defender Barry Opdam and midfielders David Mendes da Silva and Stijn Schaars are injured. The two sides are guaranteed UEFA Cup football next season regardless of the outcome of Sunday's match, and both will be involved in the four-team play-offs to decide who claims a berth in the third qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League in the forthcoming weeks.
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