The third qualifying round of the Champions League gets underway with Ajax travelling to Belgium on Tuesday to face Standard Liege. Kick off is at 7pm.

Ajax

The Amsterdammers comfortably saw off Sturm Graz 5-1 on aggregate in the last round but now must overcome Belgian side Standard Liege to seal a spot in the playoffs, where either Dynamo Kiev or Slavia Prague lies in wait.

Standard coach Michel Preud’homme has stated that he believes Ajax are the favourites for the game, but Erik Ten Hag countered, “That is a well-known tactic of Belgium for matches against the Netherlands. They feel strongly about the underdog role. They may say this, but Standard is just a reputable club. I think the odds will be about the same.

“The form of two days will be decisive for which team will continue. We have confidence in our team, but then to take the leading role so emphatically … I do not think so. The Dutch should at this moment be modest when it comes to Belgian football. Just look at the past World Cup, for example. “

Ten Hag will still be without the injured duo of Kasper Dolberg and Siem de Jong with youngsters Jurgen Ekkelenkamp and Dani de Wit included in the squad travelling to Belgium.

Possible Ajax line-up: Onana, Mazraoui, Tagliafico, De Ligt, F De Jong, Eiting, Schone, Ziyech, Tadic, Neres, Huntelaar

Key Man: Hakim Ziyech – It really is a wonder that the Moroccan is still in Amsterdam after his performances last season, at the World Cup and during the two legs against Sturm Graz. Other club’s loss is Ajax’s gain and he will be their main creative force in Belgium, probably from the right-wing. Ziyech can create something out of nothing and will be looking to set up Huntelaar and Neres for a precious away goal.

The Opponents

Standard Liege finished sixth during the regular Belgian season but then improved during the Championship playoff and sealed a place in the Champions League by coming in second behind Club Brugge. The Belgian league has already been underway for two weeks, with Standard winning their opening game against RKC Genk (3-2) before drawing 0-0 at Waasland-Beveren.

Coach Preud’Homme said ahead of the game, “Ajax has a team to play Champions League. If you see which players have bought (Blind, Tadic) … That’s about amounts that we can not pay at Standard. The pressure on them is great to get to the Champions League after those investments. We obviously have our plan. We will take them out of their comfort zone. I have faith in that. ”

Standard Liege have a familiar name to Dutch football with former PSV winger Maxime Lestienne part of their squad, but he will miss the first leg. Star goalkeeper Memo Ochoa is set to join Napoli but the deal hasn’t been wrapped up yet and he is set to feature against Ajax.

Possible Standard line-up: Ochoa, Cavanda, Fai, Luyindama, Laifis, Marin, Agbo, M’Poku, Djenepo, Bastien, Emond

Key Man: Memo Ochoa: The Mexican goalkeeper enhanced his reputation during the 2014 World Cup with some great performances, which led to him joining Malaga. His career hasn’t gone as planned since but last season he was excellent for Standard and is now set to join Napoli. He will be key for Standard on Tuesday with Tadic, Ziyech and Huntelaar all set to test him.

Odds

Standard Liege 23/10 Draw 12/5 Ajax 23/20

Previous Meeting

Ajax will have good memories of their last encounters with Standard Liege having come up against the Belgians during their 2016/17 Europa League run to the final. The two clubs were drawn together in the group stages with Ajax winning 1-0 at home and earning a 1-1 draw away from home.

Prediction

Standard Liege will pose a bigger threat to Ajax than Sturm Graz but it is a club that Ten Hag will be expecting his side to overcome over two legs.

Ajax played well during the away leg against Sturm Graz last week and a similar performance should see them come away from Belgium with a positive result. Ten Hag would probably be happy to take a 1-1 draw back to Amsterdam and I think that is what they will get. 1-1




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