A trophy is on the line on Sunday as two of Dutch football’s biggest names will square off in the Dutch Cup Final in Rotterdam. The top two teams in the Eredivisie will go head-to-head for the fourth time this season, the second time in a final. Let’s check out how each club got to this year’s final along with previous finals between these two, their form heading into the match, their other meetings this season, news surrounding the final, a prediction, and European implications.

Path to the Dutch Cup Final

Both sides faced four opponents to get to where they are, being awarded a first-round bye as a result of their European commitments.

Starting with PSV, they got the better of two fellow Eredivisie sides and a pair of Eerste Divisie opposition. A 2-0 victory over Fortuna Sittard kicked things off for Roger Schmidt’s side. Telstar and NAC Breda from the second tier were beaten in the subsequent two rounds, the former being unable to hold on to the lead. In the semi-finals, PSV also fell behind to Go Ahead Eagles, but once again held their nerve and overturned the deficit to progress. This is the Eindhoven team’s first cup final in a decade.

The road to Rotterdam was considerably less strenuous on Erik Ten Hag’s Ajax, finding the net 20 times in their four fixtures. A comfortable 4-0 success against third-tier Barendrecht started it off, before putting nine past third-tier Excelsior Maassluis. Quarter-final and semi-final wins over Vitesse and AZ respectively put Ajax in their third cup final in four years.

Previous PSV vs Ajax cup finals

This is the fourth time that these two will meet in the Dutch Cup final, with all three previous meetings going in the favour of the Amsterdam club. The first of the three came back in the 1969-70 season when a certain Johann Cruijff was playing for Ajax. He scored the second of two goals to give Ajax the cup.

Nearly three decades later, the two would go at it again, the record winners coming out as 5-0 victors. A Jari Litmanen hat-trick did most of the damage on that occasion. In their most recent pairing in the final back in 2006, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar got both of Ajax’s goals, scoring the winner in the 89th minute to send the trophy to the Dutch capital.

This will be Ajax’s 27th Dutch Cup Final, having won 20 of their 26 appearances. PSV will take part in their 18th final in this tournament, the outright second most. They have only won nine of the previous 17 however, which is currently four fewer than Feyenoord, who have also appeared in 17 Cup Finals. PSV’s last success in the cup came back in 2012 when they put three past Heracles.

Recent Form and Other Meetings this Season

PSV’s defeat on Thursday evening to Leicester in the Europa Conference League ended a run of 15 matches unbeaten, with PSV winning 11 of those 15 matches. They sit second in the Eredivisie, four points behind their cup opponents. The cup final will be PSV’s 53rd competitive match of the season.

Ajax come into the final on a three-game winning streak following their exit from the Champions League back in March at the hands of Benfica. This is their 43rd competitive match this season, with five more after this.

As for previous meetings in the 2021-22 campaign, the two met in the Johann Cruijff Shield (Super Cup) back in August. A Noni Madueke brace sent PSV on their way, ending up thumping their rivals 4-0 in their own house. The league meetings, however, were not as delightful for the Eindhoveners, as Ajax would get the last laugh. There were five different scorers as Ten Hag’s men cruised to a 5-0 beating over PSV in October. That would be followed by a much closer meeting in Eindhoven in January, as a Noussair Mazraoui goal 15 minutes from time would be the difference maker in a 2-1 Ajax win.

A Shot at Silverware for Both Coaches

Both teams’ coaches are leaving at the end of the season, that is already known. For Roger Schmidt, the German will leave PSV in the summer completing two seasons in Eindhoven. His next assignment will be in Portugal where he will take charge of Benfica, the same team that knocked PSV out of the Champions League at the playoffs stage last summer.

As for Erik Ten Haag, the 52-year-old is on the verge of signing a contract with Manchester United. It is not official yet, with Ten Hag saying he will not discuss the matter until after the Dutch Cup Final. He is aiming to complete his third domestic double with Ajax in his five years at the helm.

Prediction for the Match

In what promises to be an enticing final meeting between these two storied clubs this season, I expect a close match. PSV will go in with a point to prove, especially after Thursday’s defeat. With Ajax in the better position to win the league, this very well could be PSV’s last chance at a trophy this campaign.

I think I will go with Ajax here. They have had the whole week to prepare for the tie, and I am very sure Ten Hag and his staff would have watched PSV’s Conference League game on Thursday with great detail. I am predicting a 2-1 Ajax win.

European implications for the winner

Finally, we should not forget what else is on the line outside of bragging rights and a trophy. The first European football place available to The Netherlands next season is up for grabs.

The Dutch Cup winner earns a place in the Europa League at the playoff round for the following season. This could be upgraded to a place in the competition’s group stage depending on who wins the UEFA club competitions in May.

Furthermore, should the cup winner go on to finish in the top two in the Eredivisie, then the Europa League place is transferred to the third-place team. As both Ajax and PSV are looking very likely to finish in the top two in the league, this scenario is looking more and more likely. Feyenoord are currently third in the league (and are also in the Conference League semi-finals), so they would be the benefactors in this case.

The 2021-22 Dutch Cup Final promises to be a fascinating affair with the two best clubs in the league meeting once again. The result here can very well influence either or both sides heading into their final five Eredivisie fixtures. Kickoff from De Kuip is at 18:00 CET Sunday. One could seldom ask for a better match to end this year’s cup tournament.

 

Dutch Cup Final Main Photo: LEEUWARDEN, NETHERLANDS – MARCH 11: Coach Erik Ten Hag of Ajax during the Dutch Eredivisie match between SC Cambuur and Ajax at the Cambuur Stadion on March 11, 2022, in Leeuwarden, Netherlands (Photo by Henk Jan Dijks/BSR Agency/Getty Images)