AMSTERDAM - Victory at home to Vitesse Arnhem on Saturday will earn AZ Alkmaar their second Dutch championship. Louis van Gaal's team, who last won the title in 1981, hold an 11-point lead over second-placed Twente Enschede with four games left. Twente, who are coached by former England boss Steve McClaren, visit Feyenoord on Saturday. "The title would be fantastic for my players," Van Gaal told reporters. "Soon they could say 'I am a Dutch champion'." AZ came close to capturing the crown two years ago when they topped the table on goal difference going into the final match, only to be denied by a 3-2 defeat at lowly Excelsior Rotterdam. Van Gaal's side had a poor season last year, finishing 11th, and the coach offered to resign. The players, however, took responsibility for their under-par performances and persuaded Van Gaal to stay. This season AZ were under pressure after losing the first two matches against NAC Breda and ADO Den Haag. Despite media speculation over his future, former Ajax Amsterdam and Barcelona coach Van Gaal turned the tide in the third game of the season against champions PSV Eindhoven. He bowed to the wishes of the players, changed to a 4-4-2 formation and was rewarded with a 1-0 win over PSV courtesy of a late strike from Belgian international Maarten Martens.
16 April 2009
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