McClaren threatens Ajax with another season in the cold
Saturday 06 February 2010
Ajax have won the Dutch League 29 times; Steve McClaren's Twente Enschede have never won it, but the former England manager's side will be 12 points clear of the Eredivisie's most famous club if they beat them in the Amsterdam Arena tomorrow afternoon.
Twente are second only on goal difference and, despite not having the strength in depth of leaders PSV Eindhoven, they have kept pace with them and are safe bets to at least take second spot – leaving Martin Jol's Ajax out of the Champions League for one more season.
McClaren could make history if he guides Twente to their first title. English managers are popular in the Netherlands thanks to Sir Bobby Robson's illustrious reign in Eindhoven. McClaren fits the "English gentleman" stereotype say Eredivisie commentators. He is polite off the pitch and shrewd on it. With an impressive front three that boasts Serbian forward Miroslav Stoch, on loan from Chelsea, and talented Costa Rican forward Bryan Ruiz, he has the attacking options to complement a well-organised defence – however Twente could lose Ruiz at the end of the season, with Premier League clubs interested.
Ajax's Luis Suarez is another who looks set to leave the Eredivisie. The Bosman ruling has hit Dutch football hard and coaches capable of moulding teams from scant resources are more necessary than ever. The "wally with the brolly" suddenly isn't looking so daft.
Hyypia in Never Never Land
They have the meanest defence in Germany and at the heart of it is a Liverpool legend who Rafa Benitez was unable to keep hold of at the end of last season. Sami Hyypia has ensured that Bayer Leverkusen have let in just 16 goals so far this campaign on their way to 20 games without defeat. The eternal bridesmaids of the Bundesliga are also known as "Bayer Neverkusen" for their failure to ever finish top of the pile in Germany but his year with a team built on a solid defence superbly marshalled by the 36-year-old Finnish veteran they are threatening to hold their nerve.
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