With three Matchdays completed, the Champions League group stages are beginning to heat up for many sides and Chelsea’s encounter with Ajax could well decide Group H.
Tonight’s two rivals, as the Europa League winners from last season (Chelsea) and were always favoured and currently sit 1st and 2nd respectively, with Valencia – evens favourites to beat Lille tonight – only two points behind.
The two leading clubs should feel confident of being able to make it through to the knockouts, and produced a game of high quality in their first meeting back in October.
Chelsea won 1-0 there with an impressive performance which showed a great deal of maturity considering the average age of the side and the relative inexperience of Frank Lampard, who is in only his second season as a manager.
The hard pressing employed by Chelsea was very effective against an Ajax, who were not quite as potent in possession as we’ve seen over the past 18 months. When Chelsea did have the ball they were effective, with big performances from Christian Pulisic off the bench and a late winner from Michy Batshauyi amongst the standouts. The defence, led by César Azpilicueta, also performed very well under pressure.
Chelsea v Ajax
UEFA Champions League Group Stage
20:00 BT Sport 2 / BT Sport Ultimate
HEAD TO HEAD RECORD
(Maximum 10 matches, since 2000)
OCT 2019 CHAMPIONS LEAGUE Ajax 0-1 Chelsea
It’s worth remembering that Ajax did not play particularly badly there, and they have won 4-0 and 4-2 domestically since. Whilst Chelsea look to be the right favourites with home advantage, this should be a very competitive contest.
Tactics will play a big part as Chelsea really put the pressure on Ajax when Lampard brought on Pulisic and Batshuayi in Amsterdam, but the blues may have to deal with a greater threat from Ajax on the break if the visitors sit off the ball today.
Hakim Ziyech, Quincy Promes and Donny van de Beek will all be major dangers if they can get chances on the break and Ajax did have a strong away record in the Champions League last season too, winning the away leg against Real Madrid, Juventus, and Tottenham Hotspur despite not winning a knockout game at home.
The final scoreline of 1-0 was a bit of a surprise to the markets last time but it wasn’t for lack of either team trying. By just 25 minutes there had been seven shots between the two sides, Quincy Promes was just denied the opener for offside & Michy Batshauyi missed a 1 on 1 before he scored the winner.
Chelsea look to be the right favourites tonight, but this is a tough game to call and perhaps Ajax can make their mark in what could be another very tight contest.
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