Ajax vs Real Madrid: The reigning champions travel to the Johan Cruyff Arena for the 1st leg of their Round of 16 Champions League tie on Thursday. The Dutch team didn’t have the best start to the year 2019. They’ve won only 1 of the 4 league games and are placed 2nd on the points table in the Eredivisie. Six points separate Ajax and the league leaders PSV Eindhoven after 21 rounds. How will Erik Ten Haag’s unit fare against the 13-time champions?
The Los Blancos started the La Liga season poorly after their ace striker Cristiano Ronaldo decided to move to the Italian club, Juventus. Their Champions League form though didn’t diminish but without one of the finest footballers the world has ever seen, the void was clearly visible. Real Madrid haven’t dropped a game in their last 7 outings and after beating their rivals Atletico Madrid last weekend, the outrageous quality these group of players provide will be tough to behold. Can Frenkie De Jong step up & stop some of the elites of the sport or will the champions prove too tough to dismantle?
Ajax vs Real Madrid
Venue: Johan Cruyff Arena
When: 14th February 2019
Kick-Off: 1:30 am IST
Isco & Marcus Llorente will be the only absentees from the Real Madrid dugout.
Frenkie De Jong played 70 minutes after his return from an injury. The Barcelona bound midfielder will hog all the limelight for this fixture. If he plays, he’ll be a force to reckon with.
EXPECTED PLAYING XI
Andre Onana(gk), Noussair Mazraoui, Matthijs Di Ligt, Daley Blind, Nicolas Tagliafico, Donny van de Beek, Frenkie de Jong, Lasse Schone, Hakim Zeyich, Kasper Dolberg, Dusan Tadic.
Thibaut Courtois(gk), Daniel Carvajal, Raphael Varane, Sergio Ramos, Sergio Reguilon, Tony Kroos, Casimero, Luka Modric, Vinicius Jr, Karim Benzema, Lucas Vazquez.
PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR
Hakim Zeyich & Dusan Tadic have been the star men for Ajax. Out of the 72 goals they’ve scored in the Eredivisie, the duo has been involved in 40 goals. The Moroccan has continued his delightful form this year notching up 12 goals & 8 assists. Dusan Tadic since his move from Southampton has been on a roll. This year, Tadic has scored 13 & made 7 goals for his teammates. In the Champions League also, Tadic has found the back of the net an impressive 5 times. He will be the player to watch out for.
Karim Benzema has taken the onus of scoring goals after Ronaldo’s exit. The French international has been there done that on numerous occasions. Against Ajax, Benzema will have the quality of Vinicius Junior, Luka Modric and Tony Kross to provide him with quality deliveries. Can he be the match winner on an important CL night? Benzema will be the player to keep a keen eye on.
Ajax have lost only one home game out of the last 21 in European competitions but their record against Real Madrid isn’t as impressive. They’ve lost their last 6 games against Los Blancos and have conceded 20.
Ajax, however, are one of only 5 teams who went unbeaten in this season’s Champions League group stages. Barcelona, Bayern, Porto & Lyon are the other.
Real Madrid have won the Champions League 4 times in the last 5 seasons. They last lost in the knock-out stage in the year 2014/15 semi-finals.
Real Madrid had 120 shots and 237 touches inside the opposition box. That’s Benzema territory & Ajax have to wary of this threat.
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