The Johan Cruijff Arena is the setting on Wednesday as Ajax welcome APOEL Nicosia for their second leg clash of the Champions League qualifiers at 8pm. The pair have met in the group stages of the tournament before, back in 2014, and it was the Dutch side who got the better of their opponents back then with a resounding 4-0 victory. Now it’s all about qualifying for that phase of the competition though, with both sides eager to get amongst Europe’s elite again.
Ajax started the last round with a 2-2 draw away to PAOK Thessaloniki FC in early August, and they got through to this phase of the Champions League with a 5-4 aggregate win having won the second leg by three goals to two. Those fixtures sandwiched a mauling of FC Emmen in which there were four different goal scorers as Donny van de Beek, Hakim Ziyech, Dusan Tadic all netted, and Klaas Jan Huntelaar’s brace sealed three points. Another thrashing, this time over VVV-Venlo by four goals to one, preceded their scoreless first leg stalemate with APOEL Nicosia which leaves this tie well and truly open for anyone to grab it by the scruff of its neck.
APOEL’s European journey began in late July, with a 0-1 away win over Sutjeska to make the second leg a more comfortable affair. They ended up progressing from that stage of the qualifiers by four goals to nil on aggregate, however fans were given a shock when Qarabag took a 1-2 lead into the second leg of their tie in the succeeding round. The trip to Qarabag was subsequently a tense one, but Tomas De Vincenti eased fears when he struck home from twelve yards to open scoring, followed by Uros Matic’s second half goal which was all they needed to make their way through to this point of the competition.
Ajax have been in a rich vein of scoring form as of late, getting at least one goal in each of their competitive games until last week’s first leg. They’ve scored twelve times in their previous four outings, however their defence has been questioned at times after shipping in four of their six matchups. APOEL have also been good in front of goal, striking past opposition goalkeepers in four of their five games.
Ajax are massive favourites to come through this one, and with APOEL’s defeat versus Qarabag that comes as no surprise. The Dutch champions have won three of their last four games, failing to keep a clean sheet in two of those affairs while scoring at least three times in each win.
Ajax have scored in each of their last eight home games.
APOEL Nicosia have scored three times in their last three matches.
Ajax are still yet to be defeated this season.
Carel Eiting is a doubt due to a knee injury so it’s unlikely he’ll feature at any point here, while pacey attacker Quincy Promes is feeling the effects of an ankle injury, so he too is a worry. Noussair Mazraoui will serve his one game suspension for a red card he picked up in the first leg. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar is coming towards the end of his career now, but the forward is as merciless as ever when involved in goalmouth action. The striker has scored a combined amount of four goals between league and Champions League fixtures so far, with more expected soon from him.
APOEL Nicosia won’t have any injury worries to concern themselves with, so barring any late problems in training they should have a fully fit squad for this one. Tomas De Vincenti has netted twice during the qualifying phase so far, while Andrija Pavlovic bagged a hat-trick in the second leg versus Sutjeska to see his team through, and the attacker will be aiming for more of the same on Wednesday despite the fact he hasn’t scored since.