DAVID SMITH - Friday, December 5, 2014
Aron Johannsson and AZ will try to keep their hot streak alive against Deventer while Rubio Rubin will try to build on a strong performance last weekend when Utrecht host Heracles.
AZ Alkmaar - Go Ahead Eagles Deventer
With a six-game unbeaten run across league and cup play, Aron Johannsson and AZ can push into the top three of the Eredivisie standings should they manage a win over Deventer on Saturday.
AZ rode a pair of goals by Nemanja Gudelj to a shut-out win over Cambuur last weekend, with the result being their third straight game without allowing an opposing goal in league play.
The victory was enough to see them occupy fourth in the standings, although with a narrow gap to the teams just ahead, a win could see them rise as high as third.
Johannsson has easily settled back into his old station at AZ of leading the attack, netting his first goal since returning from injury two weeks ago.
This is still a far cry from his 17 league goals of last season, but the fact that he's been an undisputed starter for the team from the moment he set foot on the field should send strong signals to his national team companions and superiors.
He could have some success to increase his goal total against Deventer, who have, along with Excelsior Rotterdam, the worst goals-against mark of all teams not currently residing in the relegation zone of the league.
In the one time he has faced Deventer in the previous season, the Alabama-born US international did net once, and another good performance will be a welcome boon to a team trying to make a move to the head of the second-tier contenders and into the upper echelons of the division.
Neither team is reporting any absences.
FC Utrecht - Heracles Almelo
After finally netting his first goal in first-team play, Rubio Rubin will continue to build his resume on Sunday when Utrecht host Heracles.
Even though scoring the fourth goal of a 5-1 blow-out is hardly a case for demanding a Ballon D'Or nomination, Rubin's first tally for Utrecht did finally end the mounting question of when he could make the transition from provider to scorer in a top European league.
The poacher-like goal was impressive, without any question, but the fact that he'd already directly set up five more through just 10 games prior is an even greater indication of his potential.
While Utrecht are hardly looking contenders to even push for European placement, they are hosting a Heracles team that is mired in a relegation battle and has allowed more than two goals per game, which should give them the expectation for nothing short of a win.
The only advantage swinging towards the visitors is their recent form, which has seen them win three of their last four in league play, with the only loss being an unsurprisingly defeat at the hands of current leaders PSV Eindhoven.
Utrecht is reporting a full lineup while Heracles could be without Bart Schenkeveld, Dario Vujičević, Bram Castro and Rick Hemmink, all of whom missed last weekend's game due to injury.
Dion Watson is unlikely to participate when Fortuna Sittard visits Almere city on Saturday.
Charles Kazlauskas and Helmond Sport will hope for three points when they host 19th-place MVV Maastricht on Saturday evening.