DAVID SMITH - Friday, April 27, 2012
ozy Altidore and AZ Alkmaar will need to put on one of their best performances of the season when they duel Feyenoord Rotterdam for second place, while Charles Kazlauskas and Helmond gear up for the playoffs.
Feyenoord Rotterdam - AZ Alkmaar
With three games left to go and five teams fighting it out for Holland's second Champions League spot, Jozy Altidore will need to continue his recent scoring run when Alkmaar visit Feyenoord Rotterdam in a pivotal six-pointer.
Anything short of a win will likely drop AZ out of their current second place standing, and with just three games left to play, any mistakes could prove fatal for their hopes.
AZ finally broke free of their three-game winless run in league play last weekend in a 2-1 victory over Venlo, with Altidore's 15th league goal of the season possibly having proven to be his most important, as it kept them momentarily in second place.
They will almost certainly need to further improve on their performance on Sunday, as they are facing off against a Feyenoord team that has not lost in over two months.
Outside of first-place Ajax, they have arguably been the league's best team over this period, taking six wins against just two draws. This run has brought them to third place, and the only thing separating them from AZ is a one-goal difference in their overall goal differential.
AZ were victors in their first clash back in September, in a game which saw the second-half sending off of Rotterdam defender Kelvin Leerdam, and an 85th minute winner by Brett Holman.
The only absence for AZ is midfielder Celso Ortiz, who is still out with a knee problem.
Feyenoord will only be missing striker John Guidetti, who is suffering a nerve inflammation brought on by his recent bout with the flu.
After missing Helmond's last few games due to injury, Charles Kazlauskas is a huge question mark for the team on Friday when they close the regular season with a home game against eighth-place FC Dordrecht. Helmond are guaranteed fourth place, and will enter directly into the second round of the promotion playoffs.