Monday, October 23, 2017

Prediction: Nice vs Ajax

Verdict: Home win

Best Odds: 7/5

Bookmaker: William Hill

Four-time Ligue 1 champions have been handed a tough draw in an attempt to reach the Champions League group stage for the first time as they face Dutch giants Ajax in the third qualifying round. Both sides are still in their pre-season, so it will be interesting to see who will be in better shape on Wednesday evening.

Nice

Many of you are probably unaware that OGC Nice are one of France’s oldest clubs having been established in 1904, while they also have four Ligue 1 trophies to their name. The problem is that the last of those was won back in 1959, and the club haven’t enjoyed a great deal of success since, apart from lifting the Coupe de France trophy in 1997. Les Aiglons did start showing signs of improvement in recent years, and they now have a chance to secure their maiden Champions League appearance. Many believed that fourth-place finish in the 2015/2016 campaign was a one-off result, but Nice then performed even better last term to clinch the final Champions League berth. The club management did well to keep the entire team together in spite of the heavy interest in their key men, while also adding Christophe Jallet, Adrien Tameze and Jean-Victor Makengo. Les Aiglons were pretty impressive during pre-season, defeating Stade Nyonnais, Servette, Gent and Borussia M’gladbach, while losing to Slavia Prague, but it remains to be seen whether they can take that form into the Ajax clash.

Team News

Valentin Eysseric has recovered from injury and he is in contention, but full-back Dalbert Henrique remains on the sidelines. New signing Christophe Jallet has been registered in time.

Ajax

Even if they ended up missing out on the Eredivisie trophy by a single point, youthful Ajax side had plenty of reason to be satisfied with the outcome of last season. The Amsterdammers enjoyed an impressive Europa League campaign, finishing as runners up after eliminating the likes of Legia Warsaw, FC Kobenhavn, Schalke and Lyon on the road to the final. Following some outstanding performances, top European clubs began to cast admiring glances towards Ajax starlets, but the club did well to hold on to most key men. Davy Klaassen, Jairo Riedewald and Kenny Tete did leave, but Davinson Sanchez, Hakim Ziyech, Kasper Dolberg and Amin Younes all stayed, while veteran striker Klass Jan Huntelaar returned to Amsterdam ArenA. In all fairness, Ajax failed to impress in pre-season, suffering defeats to Werder Bremen and Lyon, while only defeating PAOK. On top of that, new coach Marcel Keizer faces some selection problems, meaning that the Amsterdammers could face a tough task at Allianz Arena.

Team News

Daley Sinkgraven and Mitchell Dijks have failed to recover in time, whereas Vaclav Cerny and Mateo Cassierra did not make the trip. Andre Onana is in contention.

Key Factors to Consider

  • The two sides have never met before
  • Nice facing Dutch opposition for the first time
  • Ajax lost five of last six European matches in France (D1)
  • Both teams scored in Ajax’s last six CL fixtures
  • Les Aiglons have never played Champions League football

Conclusion

Nice kept the entire squad together and looked really good in pre-season, which is enough to suggest they are in better shape than Ajax. The Amsterdammers have so far failed to sign proper replacements for Klaassen, Tete and Riedewald, and their current form leaves a lot to be desired.

Verdict: Home win

Best Odds: 7/5

Bookmaker: William Hill

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