Ajax vs Real Madrid
“A fourth consecutive Champions League? Nothing is impossible for Real Madrid.”
That’s what Los Blancos manager Santiago Solari said ahead of their last-16 match-up with Ajax, and those words send a clear message to the rest of the Champions League playing field: the Madrid giants are back to stake their claim as the best in Europe.
The departure of Cristiano Ronaldo and the shock exit of manager Zinedine Zidane were massive blows to the La Liga side; but make no mistake, they remain confident about their title chances even if the odds are stacked against them.
Ajax know very well they are the underdogs in this showdown; however, they will be motivated playing at Amsterdam, in front of a passionate home crowd in Johan Cruyff Arena.
Real Madrid finding their groove
Ronaldo and Zidane led Real Madrid to a record three straight Champions League titles, and after the two left the club in the summer, the team was thrust into the unknown.
Julen Lopetegui’s hiring as manager was supposed to keep Real in contention. Nonetheless, that proved to be a disaster instead, as they found themselves winning just six of their first 13 contests in all competitions.
They lost to CSKA Moscow in a Champions League tie in October, and things didn’t get any better for them. They succumbed to Barcelona 5-1 in El Clasico, a match which sealed the fate of Lopetegui at the Bernabeu.
Fortunately for Madrid, they were able to recover in time with the arrival of Solari. The Argentine manager has guided Los Blancos back to title contention in La Liga, all after spending some time outside the top three.
The team has also experienced a significant turnaround, particularly in the past month. Real are unbeaten in seven consecutive games now, winning six and drawing one in the process. Most recently, they took down city rivals Atletico Madrid, with Gareth Bale scoring his 100th Real goal.
Real Madrid boss Santiago Solari stands on the pitch during their training ahead of the Champions League battle with Ajax
Real Madrid have undoubtedly regained their confidence, and that’s something Ajax will be wary of. Sure enough, they are not the same force they once were without Ronaldo and Zidane, but that also comes with fewer expectations—something which Real could well take advantage.
A bad omen for Ajax
Ajax shouldn’t be written off. After all, they are a great attacking team and undoubtedly deserve to be on this stage.
The Dutch side has already scored a league-leading 72 goals in the Dutch Eredivisie, and they know very well they can score against any team. Besides, they never failed to score in their unbeaten run in the group stage of the Champions League this year.
They gave Bayern Munich a run for their money in the battle for the top spot in Group E, proving they belong among Europe’s elite.
However, in an unusual turn of events, Ajax lost 1-0 to eighth-placed Heracles in the build-up to this game. One could argue that they are just preparing for their encounter with Real, but the fact that they didn’t find the back of the net is a cause for concern.
That was the first time Ajax failed to score since their 3-0 defeat to PSV Eindhoven last September—that’s a 25-match scoring streak!
The timing of the defeat couldn’t get any worse, and it doesn’t help the team that they received more bad news with an injury to Frenkie de Jong.
De Jong, considered as the heart of the Ajax midfield, is doubtful to play against Real Madrid due to a thigh problem. He picked up the injury in their defeat to Heracles, forcing him to be substituted in the 79th minute.
The 21-year-old De Jong said earlier last week that Ajax need just a ‘little luck’ to get past Real Madrid, but it seems lady luck isn’t smiling on them.
Real Madrid will look to grab the Champions League 2019 highlights as they try to re-establish their dominance in the UCL. And Ajax could be the perfect opponents for them considering their recent head-to-head record.
The Spanish outfit have won their past six games in European competition against Ajax, though their last meeting was way back in 2012.
Real Madrid have scored a total of 20 goals against Ajax during that stretch, highlighted by a 1-4 drubbing in October 2012 when Ronaldo hit a hat-trick. In contrast, the Dutch team has only scored two over that period.
||Ajax vs Real Madrid
||Correct Score Real Madrid 1-3 @ 12.50
|February 13, 04:00 (GMT+8)
Although both teams are strong offensively, there’s no doubt Real Madrid have the advantage. The Champions League 2019 odds at us point to a relatively tight affair, but I don’t think that will be the case.
I predict the two clubs to find the back of the net. Nevertheless, Ajax’s defence is suspect—having lost 6-2 to Feyenoord late last month—and I think that will doom them.
With that said, I’m putting the smart money on Real Madrid to dominate and take a commanding lead heading to the return fixture at home.
|A SHORT EXPLANATION ON HOW OUR () BETS ARE WORTH:
| = €20 (Highly confident)
|| = €10 (CONFIDENT)
|| = €5 (SOMEWHAT CONFIDENT)
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.
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