DAVID SMITH - Saturday, May 14, 2011
In a season finale which almost seems scripted for high drama, reigning Dutch Eredivisie champs FC Twente Enschede will take on traditional powerhouse Ajax Amsterdam on Sunday in a winner-takes-all contest for the league title.
Unfortunately, as the game approaches, the likelihood of American defender Oguchi Onyewu to even be available for Twente is dwindling by the hour.
In his Friday press conference, Twente coach Michel Preud'homme briefly addressed the situation with Onyewu's fitness.
"Friday afternoon the entire team went to the stadium to train, only Onyewu was not amongst them. It will be difficult for him to be on course for Sunday."
Onyewu's last start for Twente was almost exactly one month ago in their Europa League second-leg loss to Villarreal, and the American has been largely unused in their domestic campaign with just one brief garbage-time substitute appearance in league play over the last two months.
Playing time for the American has significantly dropped since he first joined the then-injury-filled team in late-January on loan from AC Milan, although it is still far ahead of his continual bench-warming days in Italy after he recovered from a knee injury.
His fixture in Twente's starting eleven for European games came to a halt thanks to their humiliating 8-2 aggregate thrashing at the hands of Villarreal, which in retrospect did not bode well for Preud'homme's confidence in his former defensive anchor at Standard Liege as the title race came down to the wire.
A number of injuries to Twente's squad had the American regularly playing out of position at left back for the team, but with players once again regaining their health, his solid - but not particularly exemplary - play is apparently not enough for a team which still has a legitamite at winning a domestic double.
Twente are meeting Ajax for the second time in the space of a week with hardware on the line, the first time having come back from two goals down to capture the KNVB Cup on Sunday.
Onyewu was pulled out of the roster for that game due to a reported abdominal injury picked up during the week before, and the injury now looks likely to shelve him for the second showdown between the two teams for big prize.
They enter Sunday's final league game in Amsterdam with Twente ahead of Ajax by a single point, meaning a Twente win or draw will see them earn a second straight title, while a home win would bring the trophy back to Ajax for the first time in seven years.