Title hopefuls PSV face strong finishers Ajax

PSV Eindhoven must beat reigning champions Ajax Amsterdam on Sunday to leapfrog the Dutch league leaders and take control of the title race but their opponents have a strong end-of-season pedigree.

With five matches remaining Ajax have 63 points ahead of PSV and Vitesse Arnhem on 60 with Feyenoord in the hunt with 59.

Since Ajax lost 6-2 to PSV on April 19 2009, and went on to finish third, they have not lost from March 21 to the end of the season and they won their final 14 matches in 2010 and 2012.

Under Frank de Boer, who took over in December 2010, Ajax have claimed back-to-back titles and are closing in on a third having enjoyed a five-match winning streak before visiting PSV.

"It is not a coincidence that we play our best football in the second part of the season," central defender Toby Alderweireld told the weekly Voetbal International magazine.

"Every summer important players leave Ajax and then we have to start all over again. Young new players have to adjust in a period we play in the league, Europe and the Dutch Cup, so that takes time."

Before this season started Ajax saw Jan Vertonghen, Theo Janssen, Vurnon Anita and Gregory van der Wiel leave the club, with only Finland's Niklas Moisander reinforcing the squad.

After a less than spectacular first half to the campaign, with seven draws and one defeat, Ajax found themselves having to come from behind again in the title race.

MENTAL EDGE

However, seven wins and two draws since February have put them firmly on course for a third straight title.

"Now it's only a matter of mindset and mentality," said De Boer. "All our players can play good football but the mental aspect makes the difference between a good player and a top player."

"Top players can also focus for the less attractive matches and always display a certain level."

Ajax's confidence will make it tough for PSV to regain control of the title race, especially as they are under pressure to deliver in their centenary year.

A win over Ajax, which would be their first since August 2009, would put PSV top on goal difference but Dick Advocaat's side are struggling for form and discipline, having had several players suspended, although they expect a solid display.

"They [Ajax] have a good squad and are in a flow with five straight wins but we also have a good feeling as we won against Willem II Tilburg despite a poor performance," said PSV's Dutch international Jeremain Lens referring to Saturday's 3-1 win.

"The pressure will be on both teams and the form of the day will be decisive. Ajax will defend far from their own goal and we have to take advantage of that space."

The danger for both sides is that a draw would open the door for outsiders Vitesse, who visit third from bottom Roda JC Kerkrade on Saturday, and Feyenoord who play at lowly RKC Waalwijk earlier on Sunday.


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