A bumper weekend of Topklasse matches looms as the first phase draws to a close, with last week's unpredictable return of upsets having thrown the competition open.
Third-placed Excelsior '20 will look to close the gap with the top two when they welcome VOC to Thurlede on Saturday. The Rotterdammers will be on a high after two wins last weekend including avenging their early-season humiliation against Dosti, and looking two extend their lead over VRA at the bottom of the table. Excelsior too have a win over the title-holders at their back though, and though VOC have improved steadily through the season, with second overseas Curt Oliver growing into his role and Pieter Seelaar in form again, Excelsior remain a tough team to beat at home. Matt McGillivray has proven a sound signing, performing consistently with bat and ball, and the Schiedammers' faith in their youth has likewise payed off witht the Kroesen brothers, Rens van Troost and Roel Verhagen all having solid seasons.
They will be hoping VRA can repeat last week's upset win over Quick Haag when the two sides meet at Amstelveen, VRA for finally looking likely to field a full-strength side as seam all-rounder Fred Klaasen returns from his pre-season injury. The hosts batting still looks reliant on seniors Borren and Szwarczynski, but both are in excellent form. The pair made the bulk on VRA's runs in last weeks encounter, and both were in the runs again in the T20 competition - Borren smashing an imperious 122 against Groen & Wit on the eve of the match. Quick themselves have been more reliant for runs on skipper Tim Gruijters and keeper Wesley Barresi of late and Jeroen Brand for both wickets and control with the ball. Though the visitors remain the stronger side on paper, momentum is with the hosts.
Quick's weekend will not get any easier either, when the face down Dosti-United at Nieuw Hanenburg in a top-table clash. The front-runners will be looking to reassert themselves after their previously perfect season was marred by two successive defeats last week, with Hafeez returning after a two match absence, though as yet their is no word on a replacement for the departed Stiaan van Zyl. Quick took Dosti to the wire in their last encounter, and though neither team looks as dominant as they did early in the season Dosti's problems run deeper. With openers Rahil Ahmed and Vinoo Tewarie both struggling for form and question marks over the fitness of key bolwers Mudassar Bukhari and Ahsan Malik, the pair could seethemselves level at the top come Monday morning.
VRA meanwhile will head down Kalfjeslaan for the first of the day's two derbies, taking on ACC at het Loopveld, and a win for the hosts would cement their top-four berth come the playoffs. They face a stronger VRA side than the one they comfortably bested at the Bos in their last match courtesy an excellent JP de Villiers century, but with the Zulfiqar triplets all in good form and skipper Usman Malik the model of consistency, ACC look less dependent on their overseas than most. With a sizeable crowd expected for their 95th anniversary celebrations ACC won't allow their Amsterdam rivals to spoil the party without a fight.
At least equally anticipated is the Schiedam derby set for Harga, when Hermes-DVS play host to Excelsior. Hermes have had a far better season than many anticipated, owing in no small part to the form of Stephan Myburgh and fellow seniors Statham and Seelaar ond overseas Julian Chitongo, though the contributions of youngsters such as Oliver Elenbaas and Davi van Slobbe have been key to keeping the unfancied sky-blue out of immediate relegation danger. A good day in front of a home crowd, especially if Myburgh survives the early overs, could certainly see Hermes repeat their surprise win in the previous encounter, though Excelsior remain favourites.
The weekend's final game will see HCC travel to Hazelaarweg to take on VOC, needing a win to keep their hopes of a top-four finish alive. Despite only achieving promotion this year HCC will look at anything less than a top four finish as a disappointment, and though VOC have had an excellent weekend they will need to find a way past Jonathan Vandiar to be in with a chance.
Topklasse Round 13 Predictions:
Excelsior v VOC : Excelsior VRA v Quick Haag : VRA
ACC v VRA : ACC
VOC v HCC : HCC
Quick Haag v Dosti-United : Quick
Hermes-DVS v Excelsior : Excelsior