Sports Mole previews Thursday’s Eredivisie clash between Ajax and Willem II, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
While the home side lead the way in the Dutch top flight, the visitors are four points adrift of safety after a nine-match winless streak.
Despite prevailing in their last three league fixtures, Ajax did not have it all their own way against FC Twente, Feyenoord and Fortuna Sittard.
Nevertheless, Erik ten Hag will be delighted with the fighting spirit of his squad, something which has been required to complement their talent at either end of the pitch.
The form of Vitesse and PSV Eindhoven has kept the pressure on the champions, although that has arguably led to Ten Hag’s squad upping their performance levels.
Sebastien Haller is showing signs of being one of the transfers of the January window, already contributing two goals and three assists from his first five appearances.
Providing that Ajax can make further improvements in defence, it is difficult to see their nearest rivals lasting the pace, but Willem showed last month that it is possible to surprise the leaders.
On the back of five straight defeats in all competitions, Willem held Ajax to a 1-1 draw, achieving a point through a second-half equaliser from Kwasi Okyere Wriedt.
Crucially for the visitors, Wriedt misses this game through suspension, and Adrie Koster will have concerns that his team will struggle to lay a glove on their hosts.
Although the Tricolores have scored in their last six fixtures, Wriedt has netted in half of those games, including his most recent two appearances.
Willem are also without a clean sheet since October 24, meaning that Koster may deem restricting damage to their goal difference as a successful result on Thursday night.
Ajax Eredivisie form: WDDWWW
Ajax form (all competitions): DDWWWW
Willem II Eredivisie form: LDLLDL
With a trip to AZ Alkmaar to come at the weekend, Ten Hag will consider making a number of changes to his Ajax starting lineup.
Willem continue to be without Robbin Ruiter and Miguel Nelom as they look to pull off another shock result against the pacesetters.
Ajax possible starting lineup:
Onana; Mazraoui, Schuurs, Blind, Tagliafico; Gravenberch, Alvarez; Antony, Promes, Neres; Haller
Willem II possible starting lineup:
Brondeel; Owusu, Holmen, Heijden, Kohn; Heerkens, Llonch; Nunnely, Saglam, Kohlert; Pavlidis
We say: Ajax 4-0 Willem II
Given the current trajectories of the two teams, it would be a monumental surprise if Ajax did not cruise to victory on Thursday night. Even if a number of players are rested, we would still expect the leaders to prevail in comfortable fashion.
Top betting tip
— to www.sportsmole.co.uk