Fixture: FC Volendam v SC Heerenveen
Pick: Heerenveen to win 5/10 @ 2.1
The first bet of the new Eredivisie season is in and will contain one of my favored teams to bet on last season: SC Heerenveen. The side has lost key striker Sulejmani and coach Verbeek but still will be a dangerous side this season. With Sollied they have an experienced coach to lead them, and he will be looking to build on the succes of last seasons. Some signings were known players to the Dutch fans, like former Feyenoord favorite Bona Kalou (who is out for this match) and talented Ado Den Haag right back Janmaat, and other were more exotic, like Forwards Beda and Elyounoussi, both of whom the fans expect a lot. Neither side had a good run in their friendlies but for both coaches it was just a path to finding rhythm, adjusting to a new way of playing and getting to know each other. Volendam just lacks the quality in their squad for this level of play. Coach Menzo has left them last season, and key players Chaiat, Deul and Quasten as well. Their new signings are all decent for the Jupiler League but will trouble coping with the pace in the Eredivisie, especially with all these inexperienced players. Medium stakes are best for this match, even though my heart is saying to go big on this one. The mind prevails however, and factors like the fact that this is an away game, the grass is artificial, it's a season opening and both sides have new coach make it stay that way for me.
Fixture: Eredivisie Rankings 2008/2009
Pick: Heracles Almelo tb FC Volendam 5/10 @ 2.02
The odds really surprised me here to be honoust. Heracles has proven themselves as a very reliable squad ever since their promotion in 2005, with a 13th, 14th and 14th spot. THey have a nice stadium and play on artificial grass, which has helped them last seasons. There's always a great vibe in the Almelo stadium and they have a reliable training staff and an ambitious chairman. They have lost some good players with experienced Maas and creative players as Gonzalo and Lakic, but also added good young players with Steur and Dost, and I reckon Groningen signing Fledderus to forfill an important role as well. They were in no real trouble last seasons and I can't see why they would be this season.
Volendam is a whole different story. They were a great side in the Jupiler League last season but have lost the coach who made their attacking play possible (Menzo) and I don't rate new coach Adelaar too highly. I don't expect them too have the massive home advantage Heracles has, and there is a big difference in quality as well, with Volendam having great Jupiler League stars, but also players who have little or no experience in the Eredivisie. Their signings are far from impressive, and their better players last season have mostly left, with Deul, Quasten and Chaiat. Others remained at the club, but will have a hard time on this level I expect. Volendam is the main contender for the feared place on the bottom of the rankings if you ask me, so Heracles to beat Volendam in the rankings for me!
Fixture: Eredivisie Champions 2008/2009
Pick: Ajax (1/2 odds for place 1-2) 5/10 @ 2.3 (Gamebookers)
There are two real main contenders for the Dutch Eredivisie this year, which are Ajax and PSV. The rest of them can be considered huge outsiders, looking at squads, coaches, resources and past results. In this write-up, I will therefore focus on PSV and Ajax.
Let's start with the reigning champions: PSV Eindhoven. The club has won last 4 seasons and their main strengths have been a solid defensive mentality with a brilliant goalkeeper (Gomes) behind it. The team has always been stable but last year things seem to have changed a bit, with goalkeeper Gomes being unhappy with club president Reker and Aissati, one of the biggest upcoming talents being far from happy as well, resulting in both their departures and some unhappy signs from other key players as well, mainly midfielder Afellay. Next to this they also lost some creativity with key striker Farfan, who went to Schalke and some quality in defence, with wing back Alcides. This year quantity seems to prevail in Eindhoven, with Rodriguez, Brechet and Pieters for their defence, Isaksson as a new goalkeeper and youngsters Amrabat and Nijland up front. All players are good additions at first sight, but it remains to be seen if they are real improvements. Personally I expect a lot from Amrabat and solid defender Brechet, but the rest of them are just decent, nothing more, nothing less. All in all I think they lack a real goalscorer up front, with Lazovic and Koevermans giving them mixed results. Isaksson is a good goalkeeper but nowhere near the quality of Gomes, which should be costly as well. Expectations are high after last seasons, but this also meant that the usual quietness is gone at the club.
Just like PSV has a new coach with Stevens, Ajax has a new coach with legend Marco van Basten, who will also be accompanied by many former class players on the training pitch, with the likes of Frank de Boer, John van het Schip and Dennis Bergkamp to name a few. The athmosphere at the club seems solid, with unhappy players as Colin and Perez leaving or on their way to leave and Heitinga being the only real important transfer going out. Replacement of Heitinga if Barcelona's Oleguer, who is looking rock solid in the friendlies. Combine this with the addition of last season's revelation Sulejmani (Heerenveen), Argentine Clausura's top striker Cvitanich and PSV's creative talent Aissati and you have a great attacking squad with loads of depth and creativity. Many young players (Anita in defense, de Jong, van der Heijden and Sarpong in the midfield) are on the brink of a real breaktrhough (De Jong played a lot last year already) and Ajax has the best squad by far if you ask me. Last year they gave it away due to bad decisions by interim coach Koster, combined with some bad defending. I expect this to improve a lot with a more realistic van BAsten. The Ajax attack will prove the difference this year, with great creativity always ready to decide the match.
It could be a tight affair and the option Gamebookers offers is just excellent, with more or less a cashback if Ajax ends up second in the league (1/2 of 2.3 = 1.15).