Ajax host Real Madrid in the Johan Cruijff ArenA on Wednesday in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie. Kick-off is 8pm.

Ajax have had an excellent campaign in Europe so far, coming through their group containing Bayern Munich, Benfica and AEK Athens unbeaten. However, they will face a massive test on Wednesday when they host defending champions Real Madrid in Amsterdam.

When the draw was made late last year there was optimism around the Ajax camp that they could shock a stuttering Real Madrid side and reach the quarter-finals.

However, since the winter break, the form of the two sides has gone in opposite directions. Ajax have only won one of their last four games, which included a 6-2 defeat at Feyenoord and a poor 1-0 loss to Heracles on Saturday.

Real Madrid, on the other hand have been in great form recently, winning six of their last seven matches including a 3-1 win at Atletico Madrid at the weekend. The only game that did not end in victory was a draw against Barcelona in the cup.

Ajax boss Erik ten Hag admitted that Real Madrid is the favourites and added, “You can clearly see that improvement in the big matches they have played in the past weeks. You see a clear structure and what is striking is that Real can play very variable. Actually as befits most top teams. They can play very offensively but also closed and with pace on the counter. With an axis consisting of experienced players like Ramos, Kroos, Modric and Benzema and a talent like Vinícius – who has everything to become an international star – there is a very good mix.”

However, Ten Hag believes his side can upset the odds, “It is going to be a great challenge for us to achieve something positive. We know we can be strong on this stage, and certainly in Amsterdam.”

Real Madrid boss Santiago Solari said on their trip to Amsterdam, “We have great memories of this stadium. Let’s hope that continues tomorrow. They’re a side who link up well, build the play well and have good players. You have to respect every opponent. I hope we produce a performance as serious as we did three days ago (3-1 win at Atletico).”

Team News

Erik ten Hag has confirmed that Frenkie de Jong and Nicolas Tagliafico are fit to face Real Madrid, despite injury issues.

The Ajax boss is likely to divert back to his favoured Champions League playing style with Dusan Tadic through the middle of the attack, which should mean a start for David Neres. Noussair Mazraoui will come back in at right-back, while Kasper Dolberg and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar are likely to be on the bench.

Possible Ajax line-up: Onana; Mazraoui, Blind, De Ligt, Tagliafico; Schone, De Jong, Van de Beek; Neres, Tadic, Ziyech

Real Madrid are without Isco and Marcos Llorente for the first leg, while Solari is rumoured to start without Marcelo and Gareth Bale. Talented Brazilian Vinicius Junior is set to keep his place in the starting eleven.

Possible Real Madrid line-up: Courtois; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Reguilon; Casemiro, Modric, Kroos; Vazquez, Vinicius, Benzema

Odds

Understandably Real Madrid are favourites for the clash at 10/11. You can get 11/4 for Ajax to cause an upset while a draw is 10/3.

Previous Meetings

Ajax have clashed with Real Madrid on 12 occasions with The Spanish side coming out on top seven times, Ajax winning four and one clash ending in a draw.

Ajax’s wins came in the semi-final of their victorious 1972/73 European Cup campaign, which was inspired by Johan Cruijff (2-1 home, 1-0 away) and, as holders, in the 1995/96 Champions League group stage (1-0 home, 2-0 away).

Since then Real Madrid have had the upper hand with six consecutive victories. Their last trip to Amsterdam ended in a 4-1 victory back in 2012.

Key Players

Frenkie de Jong

The future Barcelona midfielder will be motivated to show what he can do against Real Madrid over the two legs to impress his new club.

De Jong is crucial to Ajax’s style of play but has had a dip in form recently. Ten Hag will be hoping he is back to his controlling best on Wednesday as Ajax aim to control the midfield.

De Jong will need to look to pick off Modric and Kroos in the middle and keep Ajax in possession. The 21-year-old’s dribbling ability will be key to get Ajax out of tricky situations and on the attack.

Karim Benzema

The French striker has been a key player in Solari’s side as they have turned their form around with four goals in their last five games.

Benzema will be confident of netting in Amsterdam on Wednesday and Ajax’s defence will have to improve drastically from recent weeks if they are to keep him quiet.

Podcast

Want more of a preview then listen to the latest Football-Oranje podcast. Available on I-Tunes, Soundcloud and Youtube.




admin (7709 Posts)

Follow @Footballoranje_ on Twitter