The biggest winners of the past Eredivisie weekend did so without any effort other than making the trip up to the snow covered North of the Netherlands. Twente say their match at Groningen chalked off in icy conditions, but still did the best business of the weekend.
Of the four title candidates, Vitesse drew at home to league bottom team N.E.C. and Feyenoord lost 3-2 at ADO. Last week, the model called it an even split between Vitesse and Twente, but now Vitesse dropped 12 percentage points to go to 21% chance of winning the league, while Twente rose the same amount to go to 45%.
The same trade-off happened between Ajax, who were only a distant fourth last week at 13%, but the mix of events, including their win at Go Ahead Eagles, made them rise to 24%. With that move, Ajax’s odds rose by the same amount that Feyenoord’s fell, to 22% in that case.
By the way, the rationale behind these numbers has been explained earlier. For the sake of readability, I’m not going to write the same paragraph in each weekly updated predictions piece. Please check it out here if you’d like. And, as always, feel free to comment on either the method or the predictions itself!
The Ajax match was an interesting one where the input to the model differs from the input to the human memory. To me, at least, it appeared that Ajax were on the verge of losing points in Deventer, but as we can see from the match plot, they dominated the game throughout. It’s the late timing of the opening goal that makes this match go into human memory as a huge risk of points dropped, but the model sees an away team create around 2.0 ExpG, while allowing the home side just 0.25 ExpG. The model likes it, the mind doesn’t.
Further down the predictions table, PSV did not change compared to last week. Yes, they won their home match against AZ, but the best part of those three points were to be expected and the performance to go along with it was rather disappointing with both teams creating 1.5 ExpG. You’d expect a lot better from a home team that goes a goal up within five minutes. A truly worrying sign for PSV, who, just like last week, will make the play-offs, but not anything more than that.
Groningen did not play and remained rather unchanged. Heerenveen lost to fierce local rivals Cambuur, which only hurt their excellent play-off prospects a little bit. The Frisian side have such an excellent shot at making the play-offs, that they can take a hit or two before they should start worrying.
The battle for the final play-off spot is an interesting one. Last week, we saw that it was mostly between AZ (then 7th in the table) and PEC Zwolle (then 11th in the table). The league table now has them 8th and 9th, exactly where the battle takes place. The third candidate for that spot should be Heracles, who increased their odds from 21% to 35% with a 2-1 home win over RKC. The score line there did not impress, but the 2.5 – 1.0 ExpG score left RKC little room for hope, even more so since their ExpG mainly came when already two goals down.
Things are quite open now for the relegation play-offs. As mentioned last week, Roda are not truly in the mix for those spots, as their underlying performance is just too good for that. Regression will catch up, and move them out of trouble, starting with this weekend’s 1-0 win over Utrecht. Or feel free to believe it’s actually newbie manager John-Dahl Tomasson doing just that.
Utrecht fans have a bit of right to worry. Their team ranked 9th last week, but slid down to 11th after losing at Roda. and according to the model, there is more downside than upside to their perspectives. Most likely, though, they will end up in the safe white area that marks mid-table.
Winning against the odds
ADO’s win moved them up a little bit, but the underlying performance did not inspire much faith. Yes, they earned an emotional victory over Feyenoord, but with an ExpG result of 1.2 – 2.2, winning 3-2 won’t be happening regularly. This also explains why the model still rates Feyenoord as at least an outside shot at the title. Their underlying performance was once again quite good, and sometimes you just lose. It wasn’t much more than that, actually, in Den Haag.
Last week, the model recognized ADO, N.E.C. and Cambuur as the three most likely relegation play-off teams. Two of those teams won home games, while N.E.C. drew at Vitesse. It makes sense to see all of them improve the odds a bit, and the fight with Go Ahead Eagles and NAC seems very open now.
Expect fireworks in the title odds, as Feyenoord host Vitesse for the Friday night fixture. That result will teach us which team will stay in the mix with Twente and Ajax.
AZ have a must-win home fixture against Groningen if they are to stay in the mix for the play-offs, even more so since rivals PEC Zwolle and Heracles have winnable home fixtures against Roda and NAC played at the same time.
On Sunday N.E.C. – Go Ahead Eagles is a direct relegation play-off dogfight. And Utrecht may see their orange bar creeping up further with Ajax about to test their troubled defense.