FC Utrecht and Sparta Rotterdam square off in the first leg of their European competition playoff semi-final on Thursday evening.
The two teams finished in seventh and sixth place respectively in the Eredivisie standings, and their goal now is to earn a spot in the Europa Conference League qualifying rounds.
Having won five of their last seven matches of the regular season, Utrecht will be confident of turning their recent form into a rare place on the continental scene.
Their only defeats came by 3-1 scorelines at each of Feyenoord and Ajax, while three goals have been scored in two of their last three victories.
Michael Silberbauer’s team concluded the regular campaign with a 3-2 success over Emmen, twice being pegged back by their opponents before the winning goal was eventually found when down to 10 men.
As well as only losing four times at Stadion Galgenwaard in the league this season, as many as 10 points have been collected from a possible 12 in recent outings.
Utrecht also have fond memories from the last time that they faced Sparta Rotterdam, prevailing by a 3-0 scoreline on away territory in February.
However, Silberbauer will be wary of playing a team that have netted nine times in their last two games and have only failed to score once in their most recent 11 matches.
On the back of recording a 4-1 victory over Cambuur, Sparta travelled to fellow relegated side and returned with a 5-0 triumph.
Maurice Steijn’s team have now only lost one of their last six away fixtures in Eredivisie action, conceding a last-minute goal to succumb 2-1 to FC Volendam.
Their other two defeats since the beginning of March have been versus Feyenoord and PSV Eindhoven, highlighting the level that they have recently been performing at.
Utrecht will have to make do without Mike van de Hoorn after his red card shortly after the hour mark versus Emmen.
Although Ruben Kluivert was handed game time as his replacement, Modibo Sagnan appears more likely to be drafted into the middle of defence.
Hidde ter Avest is an alternative to Mark van der Maarel at left-back, but the rest of the team may stay the same.
Steijn rotated some of his players for the final game and the likes of Joshua Kitolano and Koki Saito should return to the Sparta starting lineup.
Veteran defender Adil Auassar may also come back into the centre of the backline.
FC Utrecht vs Sparta Rotterdam Stats
Here are some facts that might be useful for placing bets on the upcoming game between FC Utrecht and Sparta Rotterdam. The facts are based on statistics from the last couple of matches that these teams played across all tournaments.
- FC Utrecht have scored in 17 of the last 19 matches
- FC Utrecht have scored in 13 of the last 15 home matches
- FC Utrecht have won the last 3 home matches in a row
- FC Utrecht have not lost the last 4 home matches in a row
- In 5 of the last 6 FC Utrecht home matches the sum of goals was under 3.5
- Sparta Rotterdam have scored in 10 of the last 11 matches
- Sparta Rotterdam have not lost 9 of the last 11 away matches
- In 5 of the last 6 Sparta Rotterdam matches the sum of goals was over 2.5
- Sparta Rotterdam have scored in the last 6 away matches in a row
- In the last 3 Sparta Rotterdam away matches the sum of goals was over 2.5
FC Utrecht vs Sparta Rotterdam – In-form players
Anastasios Douvikas is having a fantastic season, with 19 goals in the league so far. He is in top form, scoring five goals in the last four games for his team, FC Utrecht. On the other hand, Sparta Rotterdam have multiple players contributing to their goal tally. In the past six matches, Tobias Lauritsen, Koki Saito, and Vito van Crooij have each scored three goals.
FC Utrecht possible starting lineup:
Barkas, Klaiber, Sagnan, Viergever, Van der Maarel; Bozdogan, Toornstra; Ramselaar, Van de Streek, Boussaid; Douvikas
Sparta Rotterdam possible starting lineup:
Olij; Sambo, Vriends, Auassar, Pinto; Verschueren, De Guzman, Kitolano; Namli, Lauritsen, Saito