Preview: Ajax vs. Borussia Dortmund

Preview: Ajax vs. Borussia Dortmund

Something must give when Group C’s top two clash in the Champions League on Tuesday, as Ajax welcome Borussia Dortmund to Amsterdam.

Both sides have claimed maximum points from their first two fixtures against Besiktas and Sporting, so will go head-to-head in the first of consecutive meetings which could decide their destiny.

While a 5-1 win at Sporting on the opening night – during which Sebastien Haller scored four times – made Europe sit up and take notice of Ajax’s attacking prowess, following up with a 2-0 home victory over Besiktas on the second matchday could prove just as important for Erik ten Hag’s side.

Their Ivorian striker was on target again at the Johan Cruijff ArenA last time out, helping his team to a second straight win and establishing himself as the competition’s top scorer so far. The scoreline hardly told the tale of their dominance over Turkey’s national champions, though, as Ajax rattled off 23 shots on goal and had 71% of the ball.

Now making their 17th appearance in the group stage – a new Dutch record, one ahead of old rivals PSV – this year’s campaign represents the fourth straight appearance in the Champions League proper for a club that have recently re-established themselves among the continent’s elite, following several years without much success.

Following a rare Eredivisie setback just before the international break, the Amsterdam outfit got back on track at the weekend, as they turned over Heerenveen: in-form Haller opening the scoring with his 14th goal of the season, before David Neres sealed the deal towards the end of the game.

That win sees them sit at the summit of Dutch domestic football, and they remain well-placed to secure a third successive title next spring. However, Ajax have qualified from their Champions League group only once from their last eight appearances in the competition, memorably going on to reach the semi-finals in 2018-19.

Third in their section for the second successive year last term, Ten Hag’s team are now faced with the prospect of a double-header versus Dortmund that could put them through to the knockout stage, should they fare well this week and in the reverse fixture early next month.

Though their recent seven-game winning streak may have been put to an end, Ajax should prove a testing prospect for Dortmund on Tuesday, in the clubs’ first competitive meeting since 2012.

Prior to that meeting some nine years ago, these two major names in European football previously met in the quarter-finals of 1996, when goals from Edgar Davids and Patrick Kluivert earned the holders a first-leg win in Dortmund before backing that up with a 1-0 victory in the Amsterdam return.

Of course, BVB went on to lift the trophy for the only time in their history just over a year after that loss, and their quest for glory in St Petersburg next spring has begun in fine style this term.

Marco Rose’s side kicked off their campaign with an away victory over Besiktas in the opening round, before edging out Sporting at the end of September. While the Portuguese champions made life difficult for Die Schwarzgelben in a somewhat scrappy encounter, former PSV man Donyell Malen’s first goal in Dortmund colours ultimately separated the sides.

As top scorer in last season’s Champions League, Malen’s forward colleague Erling Haaland struck ten goals in his eight appearances, and the in-demand striker was also on target at Besiktas last month, before sitting out the second matchday with an injury.

The Norwegian leads a fearsome attacking unit for BVB, which has netted 22 times in their first eight Bundesliga outings, including three in the defeat of Mainz on Saturday, which sees them sit just behind Bayern Munich in the standings. However, Rose’s team are also vulnerable defensively and have conceded more goals than three members of the division’s bottom five.

Such a combination gives hope to the neutral that their upcoming 180 minutes of action against Ajax will bring goals aplenty and keep millions of armchair football fans perched on the edge of their seats.

Ajax Champions League form:
WW
Ajax form (all competitions):
WWWWLW
Borussia Dortmund Champions League form:
WW
Borussia Dortmund form (all competitions):
WLWWLW

We say: Ajax 2-1 Borussia Dortmund
Home advantage and an abundance of attacking options can help Ajax exploit their visitors’ defensive deficiencies this week, claiming a vital victory that would put them within touching distance of qualification already.

Dortmund certainly pose a threat of their own on the break, but may be caught out when pushing forward and can be picked off in wide areas by the hosts’ guileful frontmen.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *