DAVID SMITH - Friday, March 9, 2012
Jozy Altidore will likely keep his spot in Alkmaar's starting lineup as they try to hold onto the Eredivisie lead while Charles Kazlauskas and Helmond look to continue their Eerste Divisie run against FC Oss.
De Graafschap - AZ Alkmaar
After a string of strong performances since his return to Alkmaar's starting lineup, Jozy Altidore will look to keep the run alive on Sunday when the team visits relegation favorites De Graafschap.
With three goals in his last two league appearances and a pair of assists in AZ's Thursday-night 2-0 Europa League win over Udinese, Altidore is enjoying perhaps his strongest run of play this season.
His spurt couldn't have come at a better time, as recent struggles by other teams fighting for the league title has allowed the team to sneak back into the top spot, one point ahead of both Twente and PSV Eindhoven.
On paper, their trip to the second-bottom team in the league should be a likely three points, although the team is unlikely to take the game for granted under the watchful eye of disciplinarian coach Gertjan Verbeek.
The "Super Farmers" have managed just a single win since late-November, and have fallen through the standings to 17th, where only a point is keeping them out of the bottom spot.
AZ put four past the team in their last meeting in December, and will be hoping to sharpen their claws while extending their current four-game unbeaten run.
The only absence for AZ is that of Charlison Benschop who is still recovering from a thigh injury.
For De Graafschap, midfielder Jussi Jujala is out with a knee injury while defender Ties Evers is suspended for the game.
Helmond Sport - FC Oss
Charles Kazlauskas and Helmond will be looking to run their unbeaten streak to ten games on Friday when they host his former team FC Oss.
Helmond's 2-0 win on Monday over Almere City likely was of little surprise for a team which has been unbeatable since the turn of the year, although their come-from-behind win over league leaders Zwolle three days before certainly turned some heads.
While the four-point gap to fourth-place Den Bosch means that Helmond cannot continue their rapid ascent through the standings even in the event of a win, they can further solidify their positioning for yet another post-season playoff berth.
Oss have lost their last four with a series of dismal performances that have included a 5-1 blowout by Sparta Rotterdam and a 7-2 humiliation at the hands of Go Ahead Eagles, and Helmond will certainly set aim for yet another blow to their opponents' confidence.
Helmond will be without forwards Marc Nygaard and Pepijn Veerman, midfielders Ayden Kuijpers and Daniel Guijo-Velasco along with defender Zarko Grabovac, all due to injury.
Oss are not reporting any absences to their squad.