Dress rehearsal at Heerenveen before title clash

The context

The spotlight is firmly placed – just not on this match. Ajax will play league leaders Feyenoord in the game after this one. Ajax are currently three points behind their infamous rivals.

It may be seen as a mere dress rehearsal but Heerenveen could play a decisive hand in dismantling Ajax’s title hopes – such is the magnitude of next week’s clash.

Heitinga has taken Ajax to six consecutive league victories since securing his first senior managerial career. If you take it further – Ajax are unbeaten in their last ten Eredivisie games but only registering four draws before Heitinga’s debut.

However, if you look at Ajax’s european form, there’s not much to write home. They kneeled down at the hands of Union Berlin in a terrible away night in their second leg Europa League tie. The football we’re witnessing isn’t the free flowing fluid football we are all yearning for. Bits and bobs. Pieces of of play still wiggling it’s way to the surface.

So we’re saying there’s a chance? Always.

The team news

Heerenveen’s top goal scorer, Sydney van Hooijdonk, son of Nottingham Forest striker, Pierre missed a game last weekend due to a hip problem which may sideline him again this season alongside Timo Zaal.

Van Wonderen was without first team goalkeeper Andries Noppert and club captain Sven Van Beek from January.

In the 16 games these players have both missed, Heerenveen have conceeded 16 goals in seven games. To rub salt into the wound, they have shipped as many in their first 17 games of the season.

Polish cente-back, Pawel Bochniewicz was forced off injured against Twente last weekend but is set to be part of the squad, The same can’t be said for Amsterdam-born midfielder Thom Haye who missed the match entirely due to illness.

20-year-old Turkish centre-back who was said to be scouted by Arsenal but missed the whole season due to damaging his knee ligaments. Ahmetcan Kaplan, might make his debut for the club after arriving in the summer.

In his six league matches in charge, John Heitinga has already used 20 different players. In comparison, Van Wonderen has only used 25 different players since the start of the season. Only NEC has used fewer players than Heerenveen in this period.

Did you know Van Wonderen is a former Feyenoord defender? Maybe extra motivation to kill Ajax’s title chances?

The Killer Stats

It doesn’t look good. Heerenveen has lost four games back to back at the Abse Lenstra Stadium.

The ninth-placed team have been directly involved in more goalless draws than any other team in the Eredivisie this season – only registering 27 goals in 24 league games. Ajax have struck 31 goals in their just their away matches this season.

In their last nine losses with Ajax, including their last two results which ended with a 5-0 scoreline, Heerenveen will find it hard to argue it’s anything other than a one sided fixture.

The hosts have not been able to beat the juggernauts of Amsterdam since doing the league double over them in the 2008-09 campaign.

Van Wonderen has lost more games to Ajax than any other club during his time as a football player while John Heitinga has recorded a career-high nine victories against Heerenveen.