Ajax begin their Europa League campaign on Thursday as they welcome Austrian side Red Bull Salzburg to the Amsterdam Arena.

  • By Mark Bird
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klaassen sjdPast Meetings:

Ajax have met Salzburg only twice previously in all UEFA competitions. Firstly in the 1992 UEFA Cup, Ajax thrashed their Austrian opponents 6-1 on aggregate, with club legend Dennis Bergkamp on target in a 3-1 first leg win. The two sides then met two years later in the 1994 Champions League campaign, both games ending in draws, 1-1 in Amsterdam, and 0-0 in Vienna.


Salzburg head into the tie in superb form, both domestically and in Europe. After 22 games of a 36 game domestic season, the Austrians are a massive 17 points clear of their nearest rivals, leaving them virtually assured of winning the domestic championship. They have racked up a massive 69 goals in the league, with only 17 conceded. They also qualified for the last 32 of the competition in style, winning all six of their group games, with a goal difference of +12. Indeed, the only team with a better record in this season’s group stage was Tottenham Hotspur.

Ajax also go into the tie in good form, sitting top of the Eredivisie, with a four point lead over nearest challengers FC Twente. They drop into the Europa League after finishing third in their Champions League group behind Barcelona and AC Milan.
Both sides are also still in contention for a domestic double, with Salzburg in the quarter-finals of the Austrian cup and Ajax in the semi-finals of the KNVB Beker.

Potential Line-ups:

Ajax (4-3-3) Cillessen- Blind/Boilesen, Veltman, Moisander, Van Rhijn- Poulsen/Blind, Duarte, Klaassen- Schone, Fischer/Bojan-De Jong.

Frank De Boer is likely to make a few changes with Daley Blind a possibility to revert to left-back, in place of youngster Jairo Riedewald. However, Nicolai Boilesen is in contention, after recovering from injury. There could be changes in central midfield too, with De Boer likely to opt for the experience of Christian Poulsen, alongside a possible return to action for Lerin Duarte. De Boer has to decide between Bojan and Fischer for the left-wing position.

Salzburg (4-4-1-1) Gulacsi- Ulmer, Hinteregger, Ramalho, Schwegler- Ilsanker, Leitgeb- Mane, Kampl- Zulj/Berisha- Alan.

Salzburg manager Roger Schmidt may have to deviate from his usual 4-4-2, with Jonathan Soriano most likely sidelined. In this case, he may prefer new signing Robert Zulj playing behind Alan. Another option would be the Norwegian Valon Berisha.

Key Men:

Ajax- Davy Klaassen. The youngster has done exceptionally well since becoming a first team regular, scoring 8 goals in just 15 league appearances so far this season. He will be the furthest forward of the three central midfielders for Ajax, and as such the main creative onus will be on him to provide the opportunities for the likes of Siem De Jong.

Salzburg- Alan. The Brazilian striker will be the main goal threat in the first leg at least, not least because of the expected absence of his strike partner, Soriano. He has done exceptionally well since coming back from a very serious injury at the end of last season, and has been in astonishing form so far, scoring 22 goals in 25 games in the league and Europe combined this season.


I believe Ajax will shade this leg, being at home. However, Salzburg have goals in them, despite the probable absence of Soriano, and Ajax will do well to keep a clean sheet. 2-1 Ajax.

Mark Bird (2 Posts)