DAVID SMITH - Thursday, October 4, 2012
Jozy Altidore and AZ face a tough test when they visit league-leading FC Twente, while Charles Kazlauskas and Helmond will try to forget their Monday-night thrashing on their trip to Excelsior.
FC Twente Enschede - AZ Alkmaar
Jozy Altidore will be leading AZ's attack on Sunday when they try to shore up their defense against first-place Twente.
AZ have had a considerably tougher go of things this season, struggling to just two wins through their first seven games to sit in the middle of the standings.
Consistency on the defensive side of the ball has been a the major issue, as they are averaging two goals per game but giving up nearly as many, albeit in spurts.
Last weekend was one of those instances, with the team picking up just one point in a wild six-goal thriller with Waalwijk.
With Twente having the third-best attack in the league, Gertjan Verbeek will need to instill a sense of discipline in his team should they hope to avoid a blow-out.
Twente have themselves fallen off after a blazing start, losing their first of the Eredivisie campaign at Ajax last weekend, then being forced to fight back for a 2-2 draw against Swedes Helsingborg in Europa League play on Thursday.
For AZ, forward Ruud Boymans is questionable after missing last weekend's game with a neck problem, and fellow frontline mate Fernando Lewis is out with a knee injury.
Twente are not reporting any absences from their squad.
Excelsior Rotterdam - Helmond Sport
Charles Kazlauskas and Helmond will hope that a struggling Excelsior Rotterdam team will be the perfect patsy for them to turn around their recent downturn in fortunes.
Helmond began the season in wonderful fashion, winning five straight in the league.
Unfortunately, they have slowly fallen beneath the weight of early expectations, with their 3-0 home loss on Monday to Dordrecht being only slight less of an embarrassment than their penalty shootout loss to fourth-tier Xerxes Rotterdam just days before in the Dutch Cup.
Excelsior have been mediocre all season long, and particularly impotent since mid-September. They too were dumped from the cup by lower tiered competition, and gave up four goals to Maastricht in their last outing, a 4-2 blasting.
Helmond are not reporting any missing players, while Excelsior will be without Wesley de Ruiter, Nick Soolsma and Daan Smith, all due to injury.