Dutch league kicks off
11 August ~ Ajax retained the Dutch title last season for the first time since 1996, yet PSV will start this one as favourites. That is largely due to the arrival of three men who had disappointing experiences at Euro 2012. Dick Advocaat finished his tenure as Russian national coach, after their elimination in the group stages, to return to the club he managed from 1995 to 1998. Mark van Bommel was sacrificed by Bert van Marwijk for Holland's last match but is seen as the leader and combative midfielder Eindhoven lacked. Winger Luciano Narsingh didn't play a single minute at the Euros but is an emerging talent and should bolster PSV's attack.
While PSV have been strengthening, Ajax haven't. Captain Jan Vertonghen joined Spurs, a couple of other first-team squad members left on free transfers and, with the exception of Danish international midfielder Lasse Schöne, no particularly well-known names have been added.bThe champions are being parsimonious in the transfer market and intend to rely on youth players even more than they have in the past. It will be a surprise if Frank de Boer’s side make it three in a row.
Last season's revelation were Feyenoord, who were runners-up despite a lack of funds to buy new players. Central to this revival was John Guidetti, the striker on loan from Manchester City. Hat-tricks against Twente and Ajax, as well as his borderline-nutcase demeanour, made him a legend in Rotterdam.bHe won't be returning and having also lost first-team regulars Ron Vlaar and Karim El Ahmadi (both to Aston Villa) as well as Otman Bakkal, Ronald Koeman's team will struggle to secure another second-place finish.
Twente Enschede’s fate depends on how well Steve McClaren can do. In his first spell at the club he led them to the championship, but after replacing Co Adriaanse midway through last season they dropped from second to sixth, only scraping into Europe via fair play. During the summer top scorer Luuk de Jong joined Borussia Mönchengladbach. His replacement, former Feyenoord and Inter striker Luc Castaignos, should rattle in quite a few on his return to his native country.
AZ Alkmaar were brilliantly coached by Gertjan Verbeek last season and seemed to be running away with the league until a late collapse saw them finish fourth. They've also lost some key players including Brett Holman, yet another Villa recruit, so the title would appear to be beyond them this time. Derek Brookman