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Ajax fight fire with Feyenoord

Published: Friday 3 February 2006, 14.27CET
After a 4-1 mauling last weekend, AFC Ajax could have chosen a better time to head for their 50th 'Dutch derby' meeting with Feyenoord at De Kuip.
by Berend Scholten

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Published: Friday 3 February 2006, 14.27CET

Ajax fight fire with Feyenoord

After a 4-1 mauling last weekend, AFC Ajax could have chosen a better time to head for their 50th 'Dutch derby' meeting with Feyenoord at De Kuip.
After a 4-1 mauling last weekend, AFC Ajax could have picked a better time to head for their 50th 'Dutch derby' meeting with Feyenoord in Rotterdam.

Humiliating defeat
The sell-out crowd at De Kuip on Sunday may be sensing victory following Ajax's 4-1 home defeat by FC Utrecht, but the visitors' spirits have been lifted by Thursday's 3-0 Dutch Cup win at SC Heerenveen and the announcement of two major signings.

New recruits
Defender Jaap Stam has agreed to join the Amsterdam club from AC Milan this summer, when striker Kenneth Perez will also arrive from Eredivisie rivals AZ Alkmaar. "It's great that they're coming, but it doesn't help much now," said coach Danny Blind. "Hopefully it will stimulate the rest of the team."

Midweek boost
Ajax's record buy, €9m forward Klaas Jan Huntelaar, gave his new side a boost as he scored his first Ajax goal against his old team Heerenveen in the cup quarter-finals, but they still have a mountain to climb to salvage something from the season.

Next challenge
With Nigel de Jong (Hamburger SV), Julien Escudé (Sevilla FC) and Maxwell (released) having left in the transfer window, Ajax remain seventh in the league, and must make the top five to grab a place in the Eredivisie's new UEFA Champions League play-offs.

Statistical advantage
Hence, Ajax could really use a victory on Sunday, and the statistics are in their favour. Of the teams' 49 Eredivisie meetings at De Kuip, Ajax have won 17 to the hosts' 16, with Feyenoord failing to beat their biggest rivals at home since December 2000.

Excellent record
However, Erwin Koeman's Feyenoord will not be too concerned by past matches, preferring to focus on their success against the Netherlands' top clubs this term. The second-placed side have defeated leaders PSV Eindhoven, third-placed AZ and also Ajax, 2-1 in Amsterdam earlier in the campaign.

Feyenoord signings
In January, Feyenoord signed Dutch international defender Ron Vlaar from Alkmaar while striker Pierre van Hooijdonk returned from NAC Breda to assume a new super-sub role. Should Dirk Kuijt and Salomon Kalou struggle to break Ajax down, 'PI-AIR' could play a part on Sunday. "His special qualities were missing from my team, and with his free-kick prowess he brings an extra weapon," explained Koeman.

Out door swings
Meanwhile, a raft of players have departed from Feyenoord - Shinji Ono (Urawa Red Diamonds), Hossam Ghaly (Tottenham Hotspur FC), Karim Saidi (US Lecce), Cory Gibbs (ADO Den Haag), Alexander Östlund (Southampton FC), Ferne Snoyl (Aberdeen FC), Timothy Derijck, Leonardo, Evander Sno (NAC Breda), John Owoeri (KVC Westerlo) and Bruno Basto (released).

Lean and mean
However, for Koeman, a leaner squad is a happier squad. "I think it is a good thing we decreased the number of player we have, as players who do not play get understandably frustrated and might have caused trouble." He will now hope his remaining stars can cause plenty of problems for Ajax.

Last updated: 04/02/06 22.24CET

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