Preview: Ajax vs. Feyenoord 

Preview: Ajax vs. Feyenoord 

Ajax host Feyenoord on Sunday afternoon in the latest edition of De Klassieker between the Eredivisie’s leading duo.

Sitting three points behind their fierce Rotterdam rivals at the division’s summit, Ajax have enjoyed a free week to prepare for this lofty clash, while Feyenoord warmed up with a 7-1 mauling of Shakhtar Donetsk in the Europa League on Thursday night.

Johnny Heitinga has not only steadied a sinking ship since he was hurriedly ushered into the hot seat in January, but the 39-year-old has steered Ajax back into the title race.

Ajax have climbed from fifth, seven points behind Feyenoord, all the way up to second in just seven games – and seven wins – under the rookie manager.

The reigning Eredivisie champions would return to top spot if Ajax were to beat Feyenoord this weekend given they have a far healthier goal difference than their rivals – which, unlike other European leagues that favour head-to-head records, is the first tie-breaker for two sides on equal points in the Dutch top flight.

This may be Heitinga’s first Klassieker as a manager, but the former Ajax defender played in 10 derbies, winning seven, drawing three and not losing a single one.

Arne Slot only ever finished on the winning side in one game against Ajax in Amsterdam during his playing career, patrolling NAC Breda’s midfield in a 1-0 cup victory in 2003 against a team which had Heitinga in defence.

Slot’s only managerial triumphs against Ajax came during his time in charge of AZ Alkmaar, overseeing victories home and away against the capital giants in the 2019-20 season, which was prematurely curtailed due to the coronavirus pandemic – at the time of the league’s suspension, Slot’s AZ had the exact same record as Ajax at the top of the table.

During his debut campaign in Rotterdam last season, Slot’s Feyenoord finished third, 12 points behind champions Ajax, and reached the inaugural Europa Conference League final only to lose to Roma.

Despite losing the likes of Luis Sinisterra and Tyrell Malacia to the riches of the Premier League over the summer, Feyenoord have added an extra steeliness this season and canter into De Klasseiker buoyed by a record-equalling 7-1 thrashing of Shakhtar in the Europa League round of 16, extending the club’s unbeaten run to 20 games across all competitions.

Six different teams have finished the day at the top of the Eredivisie this season, but Feyenoord have led the league at the end of every weekend since the World Cup break.

Igor Paixao spanked Feyenoord into a first-half lead when these sides met at De Kuip in January before Davy Klaassen equalised from close range towards the end of a hot-tempered encounter.

Ajax Eredivisie form:

Ajax form (all competitions):

Feyenoord Eredivisie form:

Feyenoord form (all competitions):

We say: Ajax 3-2 Feyenoord
Ajax have not been top of the Eredivisie since November and the onus is on the hosts to go for the win to climb above their bitter rivals, while Feyenoord can rest on the knowledge that a draw would be enough to maintain their three-point advantage.

As has been proven countless times before, anything can happen in De Klasseiker but Ajax, with that extra rest and the Johan Cruyff Arena roaring them on, have the slight edge going into a high-stakes iteration of this timeless rivalry.

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