The 1st leg’s of the Europa League quarter-finals take place on Thursday with Ajax hosting Schalke at the Amsterdam Arena. Kick off is at 20.05pm.

Ajax have plenty of reasons to be confident heading into Thursday’s tie with Peter Bosz’s side currently on a six-game unbeaten run and having won all five of their home matches in the Europa League this season.

The Amsterdam side currently sits one point off the top of the Eredivisie having hammered NEC Nijmegen 5-1 at the weekend and Bosz stated in his pre-match press conference that he is targeting success in both the league and Europe.

He said, “We must not prioritise. We want to be champions and reach the semi-finals in the Europa League. It would be strange if we say: let one drop and go fully for the other. Ajax always wants to win everything. “

Opponents Schalke sit a disappointing tenth in the Bundesliga and are targeting Europa League success as their chance of sneaking into the Champions League next year. They reached this stage of the competition on away goals against Borussia Monchengladbach.

The game will be special for Dutch striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar who returns to the Amsterdam Arena nine years after leaving for Real Madrid. The 33-year-old netted 76 times in 92 league games for Ajax and is being heavily linked with a return to the club in the summer. However, at the moment Huntelaar is focused on Schalke and thinks that they are favourites to reach the semi-finals, “Normally a Bundesliga side wins against a Dutch team.”

Team News

Kasper Dolberg has returned to training this week and he is back into contention for the tie on Thursday. However, Peter Bosz will be without the suspended Lasse Schone. Either Donny van de Beek or Frenkie de Jong will come in for the Dane.

Possible Ajax lineup: Onana, Veltman, Sinkgraven, Sanchez, Viergever, Van de Beek, Klaassen, Ziyech, Younes, Traore, Dolberg

Huntelaar will return to the Amsterdam Arena but he will almost certainly start on the bench with Guido Burgstaller the preferred option up front. Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting is out of the tie through injury.

Possible Schalke line-up: Fährmann, Kehrer, Kolasinac, Howedes, Nastasic, Bentaleb, Goretzka, Caligiuri, Schopf, Burgstaller

Previous meetings

The clubs are meeting for the first time in UEFA competition. However, Ajax have only lost once against a German side at home and that was a 4-1 defeat to Borussia Dortmund in the 2012/13 Champions League group stage.

Schalke have never won an official match in the Netherlands, having drawn one and lost four of their previous visits.

Odds

Ajax 13/8 Draw 12/5 Schalke 19/10

Key Players

Guido Burgstaller

The imposing Austrian striker was signed in January and has since kept Huntelaar rooted to the bench at Schalke. The 27-year-old has two goals in three Europa League appearances and six in the Bundesliga. He goes into the tie with Ajax in good form having netted a double in the win over Wolfsburg at the weekend.

Hakim Ziyech

The heartbeat of the Ajax midfield, Ziyech has been in exceptional form lately and he will be the man looking to pick holes in the Schalke back four. So far this season the Moroccan has 12 goals and 16 assists in all competitions.




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