UEFA Champions League: Ajax vs Juventus preview


Champions League surprise package Ajax face a very difficult test on Wednesday, when they host Serie A champions Juventus at Johan Cruijff Arena in Amsterdam in the first leg of their quarter-final tie. The last direct meeting between these two sides in a continental competition was in 2010, when they clashed in the UEFA Europa League round of 32. Juventus grabbed a 2-1 victory in Amsterdam at that time and then held out for a goalless draw in the second leg. Overall, Juventus have won six of their twelve matches against Ajax in Europe, while the Dutch side only managed to win two matches, including the European Champions Clubs' Cup final in 1973.

Ajax have qualified against the odds to this stage of the competition, they knocked out the mighty Real Madrid in the previous round and they did that after having lost the first leg 2-1 in Amsterdam. In the second leg they grabbed a historic 4-1 victory at the Santiago Bernabeu, which led to the dismissal of Real Madrid head coach Santiago Solari and the return of Zinedine Zidane at the helm. Since then Ajax won five of their six matches in the Dutch top flight and are now tied at the top of the table with PSV Eindhoven. Noussair Mazraoui is suspended for this match, while Carel Eiting is injured.

Juventus have no worries left on the domestic front as they have all but secured their eighth consecutive Serie A title and have crashed out of the Coppa Italia in the quarter-finals, so their only objective for the remainder of the season is the UEFA Champions League. In the previous round the Bianconeri pulled off a superb fightback after having lost the first leg 2-0 at Atletico Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo netted a hat-trick in the second leg to pull his team through. The Portuguese superstar has not played since that match due to a thigh injury, but he is expected to at least make the squad for Wednesday's game. Juan Cuadrado, Douglas Costa, Emre Can and Andrea Barzagli are injured for the away side.

Probable line-ups:

Ajax: Onana - Kristensen, De Ligt, Blind, Tagliafico - Van De Beek, De Jong, Schone - Ziyech, Tadic, Neres

Juventus: Szczesny - Cancelo, Bonucci, Chiellini, Sandro - Pjanic, Bentancur, Matuidi - Bernardeschi, Mandzukic, Ronaldo

My prediction: 1-1 draw, Juventus will most likely try to avoid defeat and make sure they have a slight advantage for the second leg.

Here are the odds for the match at Bet365:

Ajax win - 3.50
Draw - 3.40
Juventus win - 2.25

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