Ajax take on Lille as two exciting attacking forces clash at the Amsterdam Arena. Both have started their domestic seasons well, with Ajax sitting top of the Eredivise with 4 wins from 5, scoring 19 goals in the process. Lille are adjusting to life without Nicolas Pepe well, winning 3 from 5 and seeing new signing Victor Osimhen net five in his opening four after a summer move from Wolfsburg.
Lille possess immense ability on the counter attack, and they showed this on the weekend in their 2-1 win over Angers. They initially had to be patient against a compact Angers side, however once they opened the scoring, they were able to adapt to their preferred game plan and utilise their counter attacking talent. Looking to sit deeper due to the lack of pace of Jose Fonte and Gabriel at centre back, they capitalised on the space in behind when Angers pressed on, as their lively front four exploited this space. Linking well with quick interplay and one/twos throughout the game, their ability to move the ball quickly in transition will cause Ajax problems. With Ajax expected to dominate possession, having averaged 62% in their league games this season, being away from home and the expectation to see less of the ball will suit Lille’s game plan.
Ajax have also conceded in four of their five league games this season, and a number of these goals have come from counter attacks from opposition sides. With Ajax’s vulnerabilities, Lille will fancy their chances of scoring in Amsterdam, and the aforementioned Victor Osimhen is well priced to do so. Coming into the game in red hot form, 3.75 (Bet365) to score anytime appears generous, especially against Ajax’s susceptible defence.
However, despite possessing strong attacking threat, it can leave Lille exposed at the back. Jonathan Bamba and Luiz Araujo line up on the wings, with Jonathan Ikone playing behind Osimhen, and whilst this is a frightening prospect for Ajax’s defence, their defensive work rate is at times questionable. As a result, Ajax will be afforded a lot of space if they do not track back, and subsequently have the players able to break Lille down. Any lapse in concentration defensively will place a large amount of pressure on Lille’s backline, and Angers were able to exploit this on Friday night, particularly out wide. Looking to create 2v1s with Lille’s full backs as a result of the wingers not tracking back, if this is the case again against Ajax, Ajax have the quality to create a number of chances.
Averaging 24.4 shots per league game, it would be expected that at some point in the game Ajax will be able to muster a clear cut opening. If they are able to score, it will lead to a very open encounter as Lille try and chase the game. This will cause further problems for Lille defensively, as Jose Fonte and Gabriel can be exposed for a lack of pace at the back if the game gets stretched. The Ajax attacking trio of Dusan Tadic, Hakim Ziyech and David Neres are more than capable of picking them off as a result, and if the game does open up as expected, goals will be on the cards. Given the attacks of both sides and defensive vulnerabilities on show, Over 2.5 goals and both teams to score is generously priced at 2.2 (Bet365).
If the game is to open up as expected, it leaves a number of players exposed, particularly in the midfield of either side. Professional fouls will need to be committed to halt counter attacks, and this should lead to a number of bookings in the game. The ageing Daley Blind (6.0 William Hill) in Ajax’s midfield could be targeted by Lille, whilst a two-man midfield for Lille could easily get overrun. Tagliafico (3.0 William Hill) at full back for Ajax has also already picked up two yellow cards in the Eredivise this season, and given the open nature of the game expected, I would expect over 3.5 cards (1.4 Betfred)