Ajax begin their quest for a place in the Europa League quarter finals with a second round first leg against Dnipro in Ukraine.

aja eurAjax booked their place in the last 16 for the first time in five years with a comprehensive 4-0 aggregate victory over Polish side Legia Warsaw, and the last Dutch side standing are determined to go further in the competition, which is their last chance of a trophy this season. Since beating Legia, Ajax have beaten league leaders PSV and Excelsior, but they remain 11 points adrift at the top of the table, and will be losing out on the Eredivisie title for the first time in five years.

Opponents Dnipro have been impressive in the Europa League so far this season, after dropping out of the Champions League in the knock-out stage, coming second in a group which contained Inter Milan, St Etienne and conquerors of FC Twente, Qarabag. In the first knockout round Dnipro saw of Ibrahim Afellay’s Olympiakos 4-2 on aggregate to reach the last 16 for the first time. Dnipro came second in the Ukrainian league last season, but currently sit third behind Dynamo Kiev and Shaktar Donetsk. Since seeing off Olympiakos, Dnipro hammered Volyn 5-0 and then Karpaty 1-0.

Frank de Boer welcomes back Arkaduisz Milik to the squad after the striker missed the tie against Excelsior at the weekend, while Niklas Moisander also returns. Kolbeinn Sigthorsson, and Viktor Fischer are still out. With Milik returning, De Boer needs to decide on whether Lasse Schone, Anwar El Ghazi or Ricardo Kishna drops out of the line-up.

Possible Ajax line-up: Cillessen, Van Rhijn, Boilesen, Viergever, Veltman, Serero, Bazoer, Klaassen, Kishna, El Ghazi, Milik

Dnipro have a number of injury worries ahead of the tie with key players Egidio Pereira Junior, Yevhen Konoplyanka and Matheus Nascimento all struggling to be fit. Midfielder Jaba Kankava will miss the game through suspension.

Possible Dnipro line-up: Boyko, Luchkevych, Fedetskiy, Chygrynskiy, Douglas, Fedorchuck, Bezus, Rotan, Konoplyanka, Zozulya, Kalinic

Key players

ghazi+1Anwar El Ghazi

The winger has been in great form for Ajax recently, scoring in the wins over PSV and Excelsior, and El Ghazi could be key for the Amsterdam side if they are to get a result in Ukraine. Ajax may have to play a lot on the counter attack and the pace of El Ghazi could see him get behind the Dnipro defence.

konoplyankaYevhen Konoplyanka

The star of the Dnipro side and a Ukrainian international, Konoplyanka has been linked with moves to some of Europe’s biggest clubs in recent times. The tricky midfielder, who can play on the wings or through the middle has scored five goals in thirteen appearances this season, and if he is fit enough to start against Ajax, he will definitely be the one to keep quiet.

00000 milik ajaArkaduisz Milik

Milik has scored three goals in two Europa League ties so far, and he will be looking to fire Ajax into the next round. The Polish forward missed the win over Excelsior, but he should come straight back into the line-up against Dnipro and he will be looking to add to the 21 goals he has scored this season.

kalinicNikola Kalinic

Dnipro top scorer this season with nine goals in fifteen appearances, Kalinic has been a man in form this season. The Croatian has scored four goals in the competition so far and will pose a threat to the Ajax back-line.

Can Ajax get a result in Ukraine?

The match will be played in Kiev instead of Dnipro’s home stadium in Dnipropetrovs’k due to the unrest in Ukraine, but the 2-0 win over Olympiakos in the last round proved this will be no problem for Markevych men. However the injury’s to several key players and the suspension of midfielder Kankava could prove crucial, and Ajax are fully capable of coming away from Ukraine with a win if El Ghazi and Kishna continue their great form on the wings, and Milik scores the goals.

However a scoring draw would be an excellent result for Ajax before the second leg in Amsterdam next week.

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