Ajax face a daunting trip to the Nou Camp as they get their Champions League group H campaign underway against La Liga giants Barcelona.

  • By Michael Bell
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de jongNamed the group of Champions, Group H not only features Ajax, and Barcelona, but also previous Champions League winners AC Milan, and Celtic.

Ajax’s start couldn’t get any tougher as they travel to face a Barcelona team unbeaten all season, and boasting some of the biggest names in world football.

After the international break both sides returned to league action with wins, as Ajax defeated league leaders PEC Zwolle 2-1, while Barcelona needed an injury time winner to see of Sevilla, after surrendering a 2-0 lead.

The defensive frailty of Barcelona against Sevilla will have given coach Frank de Boer hope, but the form of Lionel Messi will strike fear into his inexperienced defence.

With Toby Alderweireld leaving in the summer, Stefano Denswil has come into the defence, and despite his man of the match performance against Zwolle, can the youngster cope with Messi, Neymar, and Iniesta?

De Boer rested Bojan, Christian Poulsen, and Kolbeinn Sigthorsson at the weekend, but the trio should come back into the starting eleven, while captain Siem de Jong will start after making his return from a collapsed lung at the weekend.

Ajax winger Bojan will return to the Nou Camp, to face his parent club Barcelona, who loaned the forward to the Eredivisie champions for the rest of the season. After playing over 100 times for the Catalan’s before being loaned to AC Milan, and Roma, Bojan may just want to prove something to the Barcelona bosses.

Barcelona will be without left back Jordi Alba, who suffered an injury against Sevilla and long time injury casualties Carlos Puyol, and Ibrahim Afellay.

Both clubs have a link through legend Johann Cruyff, who revolutionised both clubs as a player, and manager, earning him legend status with both sets of fans. However Cruyff has chosen a side, and has stated his hope that Ajax can triumph, although he wont be present at the match due to a feud with Barcelona director Sandro Rosell.

Possible line ups:

Barcelona- Valdes, Montoya, Pique, Mascherano, Alves, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta; Tello, Neymar, Messi

Ajax- Vermeer, Van Rhijn, Boilesen, Moisander, Denswil, Poulsen, Schone, De Jong, Bojan, Fischer, Sigthorsson

Key match ups:

Messi v Moisander- With Alderweireld leaving, it is up to Moisander to now lead the defence, alongside youngster Denswil, and it will be up to the Finnish international to try and keep Messi quiet. With six goals in five games so far this season, can Messi really be stopped?

Poulsen v Xavi- The heartbeat of most of Barcelona’s play, Xavi will look to control play from the midfield, and Poulsen will have to try, and shut down the maestro. Often known for his dirty tackles, Poulsen may have to unsettle Xavi or Iniesta if Ajax are to claim anything from this game.

Sigthorsson v Pique-  Barcelona have showed this season that they are frail at the back at times, and Ajax may be able to create chances. He may only get one or two opportunities so Sigthorsson will have to be clinical with his finishing.

Conclusion

Nobody is expecting Ajax to get anything from the game, and Barcelona should prove to be too strong for the inexperienced side from Amsterdam. However this is the Champions League, and with Ajax shocks do happen, just ask Manchester City last year, and Manchester United the year before in the Europa League.




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