Ajax host Feyenoord at the Johan Cruyff Arena, Amsterdam on Sunday in a Dutch Eredivisie title six-pointer. Should Ajax win, they’ll go level on points with Feyenoord. We look at the key Opta insights and the match prediction ahead of the game.
Ajax vs Feyenoord: The Quick Hits
- The Opta supercomputer makes Ajax the strong favourites to win this match against Feyenoord (60.5%).
- Feyenoord haven’t won a league game away at Ajax since August 2005, losing 14 of their last 16 Eredivisie trips there.
- Should Feyenoord win this match, their chances of winning the Eredivisie title will move to 91% from 66.4% pre-game.
Where Spain has ‘El Clásico’ with Real Madrid and Barcelona facing off, the similarly named ‘De Klassieker’ in the Netherlands is between Ajax and Feyenoord. A game between two of the biggest Dutch clubs, stemming from the biggest two cities of the country in Amsterdam and Rotterdam.
Ajax are the most successful club in Dutch top-flight history with 36 league titles to their name, including each of the last three completed seasons (they were also top in the cancelled 2019-20 campaign), while Feyenoord have won 15 titles – only PSV Eindhoven have tallied more if you exclude Ajax’s 24.
Feyenoord’s last title came in 2016-17, but this could be their year – they are currently three points ahead of Ajax in the Eredivisie table with 11 games remaining.
In this fixture on Sunday, Ajax (W6 D1 currently) are aiming to go unbeaten in eight consecutive meetings with Feyenoord in all competitions for just the fourth time in their club history (previously 15 in 2006-2011, 11 in 1995-1999 and eight in 1987-1991).
The battle between these two teams will always turn heads and attract attention, but the times of Feyenoord being able to challenge the Amsterdammers at their own home have truly passed. Or so it seems.
Feyenoord have defeated Ajax on 11 occasions away in Amsterdam in the Eredivisie, but their last league victory in the Johan Cruyff Arena came on 28 August 2005 (2-1). For context, the youngest player to feature for Ajax this season – 2006-born Jorrel Hato – wasn’t even alive when Feyenoord last won a league match away in Amsterdam. On that day, Dirk Kuijt and Salomon Kalou were on fine form for Feyenoord, as they assisted one another to help take all three points.
Since then, Ajax have defeated Feyenoord in 14 of their 16 home encounters in league competition (D2) and recorded nine clean sheets during this unbeaten run with a goal difference of 39-8. With Ajax averaging 2.75 points per game at home across this run versus Feyenoord, they’ve only managed to average a higher record against one opponent during this time that they have played at least 15 times: FC Groningen (2.89). Since their last victory there in 2005, Feyenoord haven’t come much closer to winning at Ajax’s home stadium than they did last year; losing 3-2 despite leading twice. Goals from Dusan Tadic (78th minute) and Antony (86th minute) turned the game in the reigning champions’ favour. In fact, the last eight occasions that Feyenoord have scored the opening goal against Ajax, they’ve failed to win that game (W0 D4 L4), including the meeting between the sides in De Kuip earlier this season (1-1).
Feyenoord 1-1 Ajax: 22 January 2023 (Eredivisie)
Coming into Feyenoord’s home meeting with Ajax on 22 January, the reigning champions were in fourth position behind AZ, PSV and five points behind the league-leaders from Rotterdam.
The two rivals played out a 1-1 draw at De Kuip, with Davy Klassen rescuing a point for Ajax with 19 minutes remaining following Igor Paixão 34th-minute opener.
This result saw Ajax draw a sixth successive league game – a run which they later extended to seven in a row with their 1-1 draw at home to Volendam four days later.
It was far from a vintage Feyenoord performance, despite winning a point against their title rivals. Arne Slot’s side posted an expected goals total of just 0.38 – their lowest xG tally in an Eredivisie game since 27 October 2017 (also against Ajax), while their passing accuracy of 68.5% was their lowest in a home match at De Kuip since that same match in October 2017.
In scoring in this match, Ajax scored for the 60th time in their last 61 league meetings against Feyenoord – the only exception in this run was a 0-0 draw in Amsterdam in January 2015.
This is a great time for Ajax to play in a potential title decider. They are currently on a seven-game winning streak in the Eredivisie, last going on a longer run back in December 2019 (nine wins in a row).
Ajax’s only home defeat across their last 20 league games at the Johan Cruyff Arena came on 6 November in a 2-1 loss to PSV (W15 D4).
The reigning champions have only failed to score in one of their last 47 league games – this in a 0-0 draw with FC Twente on 14 January, which was also the only game they didn’t score in their last 22 at home in the competition. Feyenoord’s current scoring run is at 23 games, last failing to find the net in a 0-0 draw at sc Heerenveen in their second game of the 2022-23 Eredivisie season (13 August).
In order to win a league title, it’s extremely helpful to be hard to beat and Feyenoord are certainly that. They have lost just once in the Eredivisie so far this season, with their current unbeaten run standing at 18 games (W12 D6 L0), last tasting defeat in a league match on 18 September, where they were defeated 4-3 at PSV Eindhoven. This is their best unbeaten league run since a sequence of 26 games between November 2019 and December 2020.
Arguably the biggest strength of Feyenoord’s class of 2022-23 is that they don’t accept defeat. The Eredivisie comeback kings have won a league-high 21 points from losing positions – which is the joint-most across the top 10 ranked European leagues this season alongside Scottish team Rangers. They have only won more in an Eredivisie season back in 2021-22 (24) and 1998-99 (22).
They have spent 416 minutes and 44 seconds of matches in a losing position this season, which is 135 minutes longer than Ajax (281:09).
The fact that Ajax have already dropped 11 points from winning positions in 2022-23 – more than in their last two seasons combined (eight) – will add to their worries ahead of Sunday’s match.
Ajax: Mohammed Kudus
One of Ajax’s main players in their current winning run has been Mohammed Kudus. The 22-year-old Ghanaian joined the club from Danish side FC Nordsjælland in the summer of 2020 and arrived with huge promise.
However, his first two seasons at the club were disrupted by injuries, so much so that even when he was fit, he struggled to force his way into the side. Just 12 of his 33 appearances across 2020-21 and 2021-22 were as a starter. Nevertheless, he showed flashes of quality and it became obvious that once he could force his way into the starting XI, his talent would shine through. With the departure of Erik ten Hag to Manchester United this summer, and with it the loss of key players, Kudus has become a regular fixture in the team.
Across all competitions in 2022-23, Kudus has played 2,135 minutes for Ajax – not far off double the tally in his previous two seasons combined (1,340).
His 11 league goals place him joint-third in the top scorers list within the Eredivisie. Under previous manager Alfred Schreuder, he played most of his minutes from the false nine position, scoring six goals from 17 appearances, but despite his goalscoring prowess (a goal every 112 minutes) he was not yet trusted as a starter every week. However, new coach John Heitinga and a new position as right winger has elevated Kudus’ level substantially.
In his new role the Ghanaian netted five goals and assisted two more in the Eredivisie. Heitinga’s conviction to Kudus’ capabilities is only enhanced by the fact that the manager has let him play almost every single minute in the league (628 out of 630 in the Eredivisie).
But what makes him so special?
Kudus is an outstanding dribbler, completing more dribbles than any other player this Eredivisie campaign (58), despite only featuring in 1,296 out of the possible 2,250 minutes.
His dribbling is also unmatched across the continent. Among players with 1000+ minutes played in the top 10 European leagues in 2022-23, Kudus completes more dribbles per 90 minutes than any other player (4.0), outperforming recognized top dribblers such as Leroy Sané, Lionel Messi and Vinícius Júnior.
Feyenoord: Orkun Kökcü
Despite their excellent form across 2022-23, Feyenoord boss Arne Slot has been searching for his ideal frontline all season, with several wingers and strikers rotated in the starting XI across Eredivisie games.
One of the most stable factors of the Feyenoord side this season has been Orkun Kökcü, with only Dávid Hancko (1,939) playing more league minutes than he has (1,917). Their Turkish captain is not only the most influential players at Feyenoord, but there’s an argument that he could be the most pivotal across the whole of the Dutch top flight.
Only Santiago Giménez (14) has scored more goals across all competitions for Feyenoord this season than Kökcü (12), with half of his strikes coming from outside the box. He scored two goals in Thursday night’s UEFA Europa League 7-1 rout of Shakhtar Donetsk, while no player across the top 10 ranked European leagues has more goals from outside the box in league competition than him (five).
Only Ajax’s Dušan Tadić has created more chances than Kökcü (67 total, 47 from open play) overall (117) and from open play (79) in the Eredivisie this season, while his paltry number of league assists (one) should probably be put down to poor finishing from his team-mates, as his expected assists total stands at 6.2.
It’s not just the final phase of attacking play that Kökcü contributes, as he’s been involved in a league-high 182 open-play attacking sequences in 2022-23, with another league-high total of 85 of these seeing his only involvement in the build-up to the shot, rather than as the chance creator or player to attempt the shot.
Ajax vs Feyenoord Prediction
The Opta supercomputer rates Ajax as the favourites in this clash, with the reigning Champions being given a 60.5% likelihood of victory at the Johan Cruyff Arena on Sunday.
Home advantage is obviously a big factor here, with Feyenoord having a terrible run in Amsterdam against the record champions, winning none of their last 16 league visits there (14 defeats).
Despite this, the supercomputer still thinks Feyenoord are the most likely Eredivisie title-winners in 2022-23, with their chance of glory rated at 66.4%, ahead of Ajax’s 27.4%. Both AZ (1.5%) and PSV (4.7%) are being given a chance, but they are rank outsiders.
The result of this game will have huge ramifications on the title race. Should Ajax win, they’ll be level on points with Feyenoord at the top with 10 games to play. If Feyenoord win, they’ll go six points clear of their rivals.
If Feyenoord win their first league game at Ajax since 2005, they will see their chances of winning the title move to 91%, but if Ajax win then Heitinga’s side will move to 41% and Feyenoord’s chances will reduce to 52%.
Eredivisie games don’t get much bigger than this.