PREVIEW: HELMOND SPORT - FC EINDHOVEN
Charles Kazlaukas and Helmond Sport are four games away from reaching the Eredivisie, but they need to get the job done on Thursdsay when Eindhoven come for the first leg of their promotion playoff.
The ten-team playoff for the final two spots in the Dutch top flight is no mystery to Kazlauskas, having taken part in each of the previous four years, the last two with his current team Helmond.
He was closest to success last season, as Helmond passed their semifinal against Veendam, but were thoroughly beaten by a 9-3 aggregate score by Excelsior, one of the two Eredivisie teams who were forced to also participate due to a poor league finish.
This time around, Helmond must first face third-place Eerste Divisie finishers FC Eindhoven in a pair of games, and should they pass would then play either SC Cambuur or 17th-place Eredivisie team VVV-Venlo over two more games.
Eindhoven hold a slight edge over Helmond based on their two meetings this season, having won their first game by a 1-0 score in August, then battling to a scoreless draw the second time around in January.
Despite a slight blip down the stretch, Helmond have without any doubt been the better of the two since the first half of the year, suffering only one defeat so far in 2012 and easily topping the fourth period standings.
They won the final game of the regular season against Dordrecht, and will hope that their momentum will have carried over in the two weeks since that game.
Head coach Hans de Koning is fortunate to have a nearly full squad to choose from, with Greek forward Giorgos Niklitsiotis being the only absence due to a knee injury.
Eindhoven are not so lucky, as a number of players are absent from the squad due to injury. Defenders Jelle de Bock and Sjors Paridaans are out with respective thigh and groin injuries, midfielder Theo Lucius with a calf problem, and forwards Josemar Makiavala and Ratko Vansimpsen with knee and foot injuries.