9 European Cups vs 4 European cups. Historic rivals AFC Ajax return to face Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu. Ajax was a force to be wreckoned with in 1970′s and the 1990′s. Not so much in recent times. Last time these two teams faced each other in the 2010-2011 Group Stage, Los Merengues were able to finish off the team from Amsterdam with ease. That said, Ajax have started their Champions League campaign reasonably well and were able to hold Lyon to a nil nil draw in the home opener.
Ajax are currently in third place in the Eredivisie after 7 games in a very tight race. However they drew on the weekend against Twente, who currently are on top of the table. With a win, Ajax could have leapfrogged to the top. Unfortunately, they allowed in a late equalizer with their eyes on the Champions league game. Meanwhile Los Blancos have recouped after their recent blip and thrashed Rayo Vallecano at home, scoring for the fun of it with a secondary backline due to injuries.
Ajax defense vs Ronaldo, Di Maria, and Benzema. Ajax has a very young, speedy backline consisting of Van der Wiel, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, and Boilesen. Van der Wiel has been courted by Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham this past summer. This match will be no cakewalk, but I still believe that the powerful counterattack of Los Blancos will be successful against the young backline.
Ajax strike force vs Ramos, Albiol, Varane, and Arbeloa. AFC Ajax normally plays a 4-3-3, which means at least one of the Madrid fullbacks Ramos or Arbeloa will need to stay back. Arbeloa is not a natural leftback, while Ramos might need to stay back due the makeshift Madrid backline. Both Albiol and Varane and decent players, however they have played very few games and are still learning each other’s moves and positioning. Sulejmani, Sigthorsson, and Boerrigter will be a handful for the team. This probably is the area where Real Madrid is most vulnerable. But it is a home game and as the cliche goes the best defense is a good offense.
Probable Line Up for Real Madrid:
Marcelo was sent off against Dinamo Zagreb and will miss this game due to suspension. Pepe, Carvalho and Coentrao are all still doubtful due to injury. The only change in the backline from the Rayo Vallecano game is at left back. I expect Arbeloa to play there as he does from time to time for Vicente Del Bosque. Khedira will most likely pair up with Xabi Alonso in the double pivot as I expect Mou to come out defensive initially. I expect Kaka to start on the bench, but come in during the second half, especially if El Madrid needs creativity and goals.
Prediction: Real Madrid 2-0 Ajax Effective and efficient Mou style.
For more Champions League previews, check out Napoli x Villarreal!