With four games remaining, Go Ahead Eagles is in a uniquely delicate place where they can still sneak into the postseason European playoffs despite not yet being assured of their retention for the 2023/24 season. Their chances of the former are a lot greater than the latter, much to their relief, but it’s a testament to the wildly exciting format of the Eredivisie that even in the month of May there are few dead matches.
The fact that René Hake and his side are still in the race for the all-important eighth place is directly attributable to consecutive home wins over RKC Waalwijk (3-2) and Fortuna Sittard (2-0). The gap to the pair of RKC and Heerenveen above them extended to five points after those two clubs claimed wins earlier in the round. The importance of this clash is highlighted by the fact they face a trip to Feyenoord next weekend.
Upcoming opponent FC Groningen lost control of their own fate long ago. If Dennis van der Ree’s side fails to book their second victory of the 2023 calendar year, the curtain will fall upon the Pride of the North after 23 years in the top flight. Their longest stay in the Eredivisie appears to be coming to an end after their second seven-game losing streak of the season was completed last round.
It could be just their third relegation following sad days in May 1998 and May 1974, for even four consecutive wins will require either Emmen or Excelsior to lose all of their remaining games to open the door for a miraculous recovery to the promotion-relegation playoff. Given that two of their last four games are away from home, where they have won only against last-placed Cambuur (D2, L12), the mood around the Euroborg is understandably grim.
Players to watch: In his second season with Go Ahead Eagles, Isac Lidberg (G6, A5) has won himself a lot of admirers, particularly after a stoppage time match-winner against RKC Waalwijk last month. Throw-in specialise a real official fan club behind him. Throw-in specialist Mads Bech Sørensen regained his place as a regular Groningen starter, but none of his last eight competitive starts for either Groningen or Brentford led to a clean sheet.
Hot stat: FC Groningen have not lost any of their competitive matches in De Adelaarshorst this century (W4, D1).