Ajax will attempt to recreate last season’s heroics when they open their Champions League campaign against Lille on Tuesday.
Ajax came within seconds of making the Champions League final last season. They were ahead in the tie against Tottenham Hotspur in stoppage time before Lucas Moura scored to send the English side through. It was a heartbreaking loss for Ajax, which was visible on the faces of the players after the game ended. They did win the league shortly after, but that Champions League exit is sure to have left a bad taste.
A few key components of that Ajax side are not at the club now. Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt are at Barcelona and Juventus respectively. Edson Alvarez and Joel Veltman have done well to replace the duo in the side. They have continued to find talented youngsters within their academy and in the transfer window. The likes of Lisandro Martinez, Perr Schuurs and Razvan Marin have all shown promise this season. Ajax continue to be the favourites to defend their domestic crown.Embed from Getty Images
They faced Heerenveen on Saturday and recorded a 4-1 victory. Nicolas Tagliafico got a brace in that game along with goals from Dusan Tadic and Perr Schuurs. Ajax are unbeaten in the league so far and have dropped just two points. Going forward they have looked as good as ever, averaging 3.8 goals per game in the Eredivisie.
Lille surprised many by qualifying for the Champions League this season. After finishing 17th the season before, Lille made a huge jump to finish in second place last time. As a result, they will return to the Champions League after a seven-year absence. Led by winger Nicolas Pepe Lille finished ahead of the likes of Lyon and Saint-Etienne. Pepe left for Arsenal in the summer, which was a big blow to Lille on paper.Embed from Getty Images
However, five games in, Lille have coped quite well so far. After winning against Angers on Friday, Lille were in the third spot in the table. They have won three of the five games so far. In the 2-1 win over Angers, Victor Osimhen and Luiz Araujo got the goals for Lille. Osimhen has scored five goals already in the league this season. The youngster was signed from German side Wolfsburg in the summer.
Ajax vs Lille Prediction
Lille have kept just one clean sheet so far. Their defense was one of their strengths last season. In 38 games, Lille conceded just 33 goals. This tally was the least in the whole division. Champions Paris Saint-Germain also conceded more with 35. Improving that aspect of their game will be necessary for coach Christophe Galtier.
Ajax showed their ability last season, and they will be the favorites against Lille. Erik ten Hag’s brand of expressive football should be too much for Lille to handle. The game will see goals, and both sides should score. The total goals will be over 2.5 in the match. But Ajax’s quality in attack should see them get the three points.