EUROPEAN football fanatic Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) is heading to Holland for his first best bet from the continent in 2019/20.
RKC Waalwijk v AZ Alkmaar | Sunday 11th August 2019, 13:30
RKC Waalwijk were surprise play-off winners in the Dutch Eerste Divisie last term, finishing eighth and losing more regular season games than any side in the top-14 in the standings. Nevertheless, the side from the south returned to the top-flight for the first time since 2014 after scoring two stoppage-time goals in an amazing 5-4 victory over Go Ahead Eagles.
Coached by former Netherlands U21 boss Fred Grim, the newcomers will be looking to emulate Emmen’s achievements from last season, but must do so with a thin squad that has only seen four new faces arrive. Only one of additions (Sven Nieuwpoort) boasts Eredivisie experience and RKC certainly appear to have the weakest roster on paper.
Anything other than automatic relegation will be deemed a major success by Waalwijk supporters. The newly-promoted outfit opened their account with a 3-1 reverse at VVV Venlo last weekend – displaying signs of promising attacking intent, although their ramshackle backline continues to plague potential progress for Grim’s group.
In the second-tier, RKC returned W9-D2-L13 when taking on teams in 13th and above, keeping their sheets clean on only three occasions. At their Mandemakers Stadion home, Waalwijk were beaten in half of their 12 tussles with the same sample of opposition, firing five blanks and only managing to silence a solitary visiting side.
The hosts are therefore understandable big underdogs for their first home fixture of the campaign against an AZ Alkmaar outfit with ambitions of a top-three finish. John van den Brom ended his five-year stay in the summer but Arne Slot steps up from his position as first-team assistant to give the Cheeseheads continuity and consistency.
AZ looked on course for third at times last season and whilst Mats Seuntjens, Adam Maher and skipper Guus Til have left, the Alkmaar men still possess some of the league’s most exciting talents. Highly-rated winger Calvin Stengs has been touted for a Dutch senior squad call-up in the future with 18-year-old striker Myron Boadu impressing after injury last term.
Jordy Clasie and Yukinari Sugawara have joined AZ in the summer and the Cheeseheads have already began their 2019/20 exploits with eye-catching efforts when overcoming Hacken 3-0 on aggregate in the Europa League qualifiers before thrashing Fortuna Sittard 4-0 in their Eredivisie opener last weekend, landing 11 efforts on-target.
AZ were in Ukraine to pick up a well-earned 0-0 draw against Mariupol on Thursday night, which is the only potential drawback to siding with the guests on Sunday. Alkmaar enjoyed 63% of the ball and won the shot count 16-7 in another impressive outing and I’d expect the visitors to show their class here. AZ to win and Over 1.5 Goals appeals at 5/6 (Betway).
For reference, RKC topped the Over 1.5 Goals line in 30/38 (79%) regular season games in the second division last season, whilst AZ repeated the feat in 27/34 (79%) Eredivisie encounters.
RKC Waalwijk v AZ Alkmaar – AZ Alkmaar to win and Over 1.5 Goals (5/6 Betway)