In case you were unaware the Dutch Erdevisie kicks off this afternoon (14:45 Eastern) with a match between SC Heerenveen & Roda Kerkrade. I think that Heerenveen should pick up the three points tonight given that Roda only narrowly avoided relegation last season, while Heerenven finished 5th. But now onto the interesting stuff:
The Top of the Table
Last season saw AZ Alkmaar win their second Erdevisie Crown, and it was also significant due to the fact that the "Big Three" - Ajax, PSV, & Feyernoord were not in the top two. Steve McClaren's Twente grabbing second place. In the close season there was a lot of movement, and most of it was with the coaches. AZ lost their coach Louis van Gaal to Bayern Munich, and replaced him with former Valencia boss Ronald Koeman. While in Amsterdam Ajax had their coach Marco van Basten quit (he actually quit with a few games left in the season) and he was replaced by Hamburg boss Martin Jol. There were a few player moves as well, in addition to losing their coach Ajax also lost their captain as Thomas Vermaelen joined Arsenal. However they did find replacements in AZ's Demy de Zeeuw & former Hamburg defender Timothee Atouba. PSV bolstered their lineup with the addition of former Blackburn Rovers defender Andre Ooijer & Orlando Engelaar from Schalke. So I guess now is the time for predictions I think that PSV will win the 2009/2010 Erdevisie. They have added experience and experience that wants to be in The Netherlands. I like Martin Jol as a coach and I think that he will certainly have Ajax playing better football then they did under Marco van Basten. However just as Ajax had to sell Huntelaar last season, I am worried about their ability to hold onto their Uruguayan Star Luis Suarez. Speaking of which....
Players to watch:
Luis Suarez - Ajax's star player, Martin Jol is trying to sign him to an extension to rebuff interest that is starting to come from other European Clubs. Suarez is 22, and a Uruguayan International who was second in scoring last season while also being the league leader in assists. If he stays healthy and at Ajax, then they will definately be competing for the title.
Jonathon de Guzman - The Feyernoord winger has been increasingly mentioned as a player that may return to play for Canada internationally. This is because since declaring his intention to play for the Dutch, and representing them at the Olympics, he is not achieving the potential that was expected of him. I made him one of my players to watch as this is definitely a season where he needs to step up and get noticed or watch his chance of play for Holland pass him by.
Real Madrid's Dutch contingent - With all of the signings that Madrid have made this season, it looks like their entire Dutch contingent (Sneijder, Robben, van der Vaart, Huntelaar, & van Nistelrooy) may be allowed to move to new clubs. At the moment no one has left, but if any of these players choose to return home they will certainly tilt the balance of power into their new clubs favour.
The Rest of the League & Relegation
It will be interesting to see how Gronigen deal with the loss of their leading scorer from last season Marcus Berg who made the move to Hamburg (now Ham"Berg"?) after impressing with the Swedish U21 side during the European Championships. There are also a lot of teams with a shot at Europe as those from 5 to 8 entering a Europa Cup playoff. I think that Feyernoord will make a push up the standings if Jonathon de Guzman starts to live up to his potential, and they should be helped by Gronigen loss of Berg.
In the relegation battle I see the fight mainly between three sides Roda Kerkrade, newly promoted RKC Waalwijk, & Hearcles Almelo. Roda were lucky to not get relegated last season. Waalwijk were the second team promoted. While Hearcles have sold some of their best players from last season. I think that the Eerste Divisie Champions from last season VVV Venlo will finish near the top of the bottom half of the table.
So there you have it my Erdevisie Preview for the 2009/2010 season. I apologize to fans of the Dutch league for the shortness of it, I wasn't able to get as much research done as I wanted given as I thought that the season started next week instead of this week.
The rest of the league previews will follow a similar format - Top of the table, players to watch, rest of the league, & relegation. Another note is that the Polish Ekstraklasa preview will come out next week. It looked like a corruption scandal was going to delay the start of the season, but now looks as if matches are underway today.