Verdict: Real Madrid
Best Odds: 17/20
Ajax return to the knockout stage of the Champions League for the first time in over a decade and will have their work cut out for them as they prepare to lock horns with title holders Real Madrid.
The 2005/06 season was the last time Ajax took part in the Champions League round of 16. Dutch heavyweights will be highly motivated heading into the elimination stage of the competition but will need to improve their form significantly if they are to go past Real Madrid.
Ajax have dropped points in three of their last four Eredivisie matches with a 6-2 defeat at the hands of Feyenoord highlighting the slump Dutch heavyweights are experiencing at the moment. They booked their place in the Champions League knockouts with a game to spare thanks to an unbeaten home record but fine form from the first part of the campaign will count for little if they fail to get back on track in time for the Real Madrid match. Ajax do not boast a positive record against Spanish opposition and will certainly find it ominous that last 14 European matches against La Liga sides brought not more than one victory. Former Southampton midfielder Dusan Tadic, future Barcelona starlet Frenkie de Jong and Hakim Ziyech will be the ones to watch in the forthcoming clash as all three have been the outstanding performers for Ajax this season.
Frenkie de Jong has been suffering from a groin problem but should be fit enough to start on Wednesday.
January arrival from Boca Juniors Lisandro Magallan picked up a leg injury and is not expected to take any part in the game, while Hassane Bande remains a long-term absentee.
Having won the last three editions of the Champions League, Real Madrid head into the Ajax clash as firm favourites despite this season’s well-documented struggles. Furthermore, Los Blancos have emerged victorious from their last nine knockout ties in the competition which puts them firmly in the driving seat against the Dutch side.
The 13-time European champions endured a fair share of problems this season but it would appear they successfully turned the corner in recent weeks and it is their vast experience in the competition that also makes them so dangerous. Santiago Solari has seemingly steadied the ship at Santiago Bernabeu and Los Blancos are heading into the Ajax clash on a seven-game unbeaten run. They have successfully moved to within six points of La Liga leaders Barcelona and also made it into the Copa del Rey semi-finals. The Madrid-based club are running high on confidence at the moment and will be looking to maintain the momentum heading into the Wednesday game.
Jesus Vallejo and Marcos Llorente remain unavailable due to the hamstring injury and a groin problem, respectively.
Spanish midfielder Isco is suffering from a back and neck injury but Real Madrid have no fresh injuries following their weekend’s win over Atletico Madrid.
Key Factors to Consider
- Ajax return to the Champions League Round of 16 after 13 years
- Dutch heavyweights won only 1 of their last 14 meetings with Spanish sides
- Ajax failed to register a win in 3 of last 4 Eredivisie matches
- Real Madrid are unbeaten in last 7 matches
- Los Blancos won 7 of their last 10 matches on the road
Real Madrid will pack their extensive Champions League experience and travel to Amsterdam in high spirits following a positive stretch of results. Hosts have endured a poor run of results lately and will need to dig deep in order to restore confidence and form ahead of the visit from reigning European champions. It will be easier said than done, however.
Verdict: Real Madrid
Best Odds: 17/20
- Soccer News Like
- Be the first of your friends!