The Johan Cruijff Arena will host a clash between Champions League semi-finalists Ajax and Greek side PAOK in round three of the Champions League qualification stage. The home side have a slight advantage having scored two away goals in the first leg last week, but anything can happen in this one with neither team assured of the win just yet.
Ajax are yet to suffer a defeat this season, drawing twice and winning twice in their last four competitive outings. First it was a victory over PSV Eindhoven in the Super Cup by two goals to nil, followed by a 2-2 draw on the opening day of the 2019/20 Eredivisie. The reverse fixture between PAOK and Ajax finished 2-2, with Hakim Ziyech and striker Klaas Jan Huntelaar getting on the scoresheet, getting the all important away goals for his side. Chuba Akpom and Leo Matos cancelled out those goals, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that if the score remains the same in this week’s matchup it will be the Dutch champions who advance.
The game last Tuesday was PAOK’s first competitive ninety minutes of the season, and though they’ll rue not winning they can be proud of the fact they weren’t on the wrong end of the scoreline. Pre-season results were mainly positive, particularly the previous two which saw PAOK bag eight goals in two matches and win 1-3 and 1-5 respectively. Here, they need to score at least once to make it through and whilst that’s a tough ask against a now experienced opponent, fans will believe they’ve got enough up front to progress.
Carel Eiting could miss out on this one due to a knee injury, however he’s the sole injury concern for Ajax. Home supporters are going to expect a much better performance than last time out, with big names such as Daley Blind, Van de Beek and Kasper Dolberg underperforming. Ziyech is on the road to making it four matches on the bounce with a goal involvement, having created one and scored twice in his previous three appearances.
The visiting side will be on the hunt for a big win here, and they are expected to have a fully fit squad in their attempt to do so. Leo Matos and Dimitrios Giannoulis are some of the names who performed to a good standard last week, while Akpom has netted in each of his last two competitive outings. Diego Biseswar is another who’s aiming for an impressive individual display, however the likes of Leo Jaba and Dimitrios Pelkas won’t allow themselves to play below their level again this time around.
Now with home advantage, Ajax will be very confident in their ability to get a crucial victory on Tuesday night. The first leg was rather disappointing, but we can’t see anything other than a comfortable win in favour of the hosts, particularly when taking their attacking threat into account. For our first tip, we’re going for Ajax to win to nil @ 2.45 due to their solid defensive resilience and experience in European competitions which should see them through. PAOK will struggle to keep up with a determined Ajax front line, and a wide margin of victory wouldn’t shock us. Our second tip is @ 2.38 for over 2.5 goals. Ziyech, Huntelaar and Dusan Tadic is a formidable trio for any defense to come up against, as was evident last campaign.