Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Match Preview: Ajax v Chelsea

Big Match Feature: Ajax v Chelsea

Group H leaders Ajax take on Chelsea for the first time hoping to help erase the memory of their last game against an English club.

After a memorable campaign, Ajax missed out on last season's UEFA Champions League final due to a last-gasp Tottenham goal in the second leg of their semi-final. The Dutch club have hit the ground running in 2019/20, however, winning their first two games in the section to establish a three-point cushion – although Chelsea, who recovered from an opening home loss with an impressive away victory last time out, are in hot pursuit.

Form guide


Ajax have kicked off Group H in style with a pair of 3-0 wins, Quincy Promes scoring in both matches against LOSC Lille in Amsterdam and Valencia in Spain.

Ajax went all the way from the UEFA Champions League second qualifying round to the semi-finals in 2018/19, losing on away goals to Tottenham in the last four after conceding six minutes into added time to go down 3-2 at home and bow out after a 3-3 aggregate draw.

Erik ten Hag's team lost only two of their 18 European matches in 2018/19 (W10 D6), when they became the first side in European Cup history to reach the semi-finals having come through three qualifying rounds and the first Dutch club to get to the UEFA Champions League last four since PSV Eindhoven in 2004/05.

Champions of the Netherlands for the 34th time in 2018/19 – their first league title since 2014 – Ajax also lifted the Dutch Cup to claim their eighth domestic double, and a first since 2002.

They kicked off this season's UEFA Champions League in the third qualifying round, seeing off Greek side PAOK 5-4 on aggregate after a 2-2 away draw and a 3-2 home win secured by an 85th-minute Dušan Tadic penalty. The second-leg victory in Amsterdam ended a run of four home European matches without a win (D2 L2).

A goalless draw at APOEL in the first leg of the play-offs ended Ajax's run of scoring in 14 successive European matches, but a 2-0 home win booked their group return. This season's results have stretched their unbeaten away run in Europe to 12 matches (W6 D6).

A 3-1 defeat of Manchester City in the 2012/13 UEFA Champions League group stage is Ajax's only win in their last six matches at home to English clubs (D1 L4). The Amsterdammers had won four of their first five home games with English clubs, drawing the other.

Ajax have won only one of their five fixtures at home to London sides (D1 L3) – the first, a 2-1 defeat of Arsenal in the 1971/72 European Cup quarter-final.


Ross Barkley missed a late penalty on Matchday 1 as Chelsea returned to the UEFA Champions League after a year away with a 1-0 loss to Valencia – their first European reverse at Stamford Bridge in 12 matches (W7 D4).

Frank Lampard's side responded with a 2-1 victory at LOSC thanks to goals from Tammy Abraham and Willian. That extended Chelsea's unbeaten run in European away matches to eight (W6 D2); they have won 11 of their last 20 European away fixtures (D5 L4).

Chelsea's last trip to the Johan Cruijff ArenA came on 15 May 2013, Branislav Ivanovic heading an added-time winner against Benfica in the UEFA Europa League final. Lampard played 90 minutes of the 2-1 victory and captained the side with usual skipper John Terry sidelined through injury.

This is only Chelsea's third game against a Dutch club; they beat Feyenoord 3-1 home and away in the 1999/2000 UEFA Champions League second group stage.

Third in last season's Premier League, Chelsea also qualified for the 2019/20 UEFA Champions League group stage as the winners of the UEFA Europa League, and are taking part for the 16th time; only once, as holders in 2012/13, have they failed to reach the knockout stages.

The Blues were UEFA Europa League winners under Maurizio Sarri in 2018/19, beating Arsenal 4-1 in the competition's first all-English final since Tottenham overcame Wolves in the 1972 UEFA Cup. Eden Hazard scored twice at the Baku Olympic Stadium, Olivier Giroud and Pedro Rodríguez also finding the net as Chelsea claimed their second UEFA Europa League title having also triumphed in 2013, their only other appearance in the competition.

The London club have scored three goals or more in five of their last ten European matches. Their tally of 36 goals in last season's UEFA Europa League was one short of the competition record set by Porto in 2010/11.

Chelsea were unbeaten in European competition last season, claiming the UEFA Europa League with a record of W12 D3 F36 A10. Before losing to Valencia on Matchday 1, their last continental defeat had come at Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg in March 2018 (0-3), although they did lose on penalties against Liverpool in the UEFA Super Cup in August following a 2-2 draw after 120 minutes in Istanbul.

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Joël Veltman made his 50th appearance in UEFA club competition on Matchday 2.

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar is the oldest player to have appeared in this season's UEFA Champions League, on Matchday 2 at Valencia aged 36 years 51 days.

Ajax are undefeated in all competitions so far this season (W13 D4). Their last loss came at home to Tottenham in the UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg on 8 May.

The Amsterdammers have scored 28 goals in their last ten matches in all competitions, and had kept four successive clean sheets before Saturday's 2-1 win at RKC Waalwijk – their fifth successive victory in all competitions and one that put them three points clear at the top of the Eredivisie table.

Joint top scorer in the 2018/19 Eredivisie with 28 goals, Dušan Tadic has scored six in ten league games so far this season, and has nine in all competitions with a further eight assists, although his goal on Saturday was his first since 14 September.

Four Ajax players – Veltman, Daley Blind, Quincy Promes and Donny van de Beek - were in the Netherlands' starting line-up for the 2-1 UEFA EURO 2020 qualifying victory away to Belarus on 13 October.

Tadic played 90 minutes on Saturday having been out since 6 October due to a knock.

Zakaria Labyad returned to training during the international break having been sidelined by illness since late September; he was an unused substitute at Waalwijk.

Ajax picked up the Dutch Super Cup, the Johan Cruijff Trophy, on 27 July when they defeated last season's Eredivisie runners-up PSV Eindhoven 2-0 thanks to goals from Kasper Dolberg and Blind.


Like Ajax, Chelsea have won their last five matches in all competitions, scoring 16 goals and conceding only three. They beat Newcastle 1-0 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Callum Hudson-Odoi set up Marcos Alonso's winner at the weekend and, aged 18 years 346 days, is the second youngest player to provide an assist in three consecutive Premier League matches after Michael Owen (18 years 27 days) in January 1998.

Saturday marked only Chelsea's second clean sheet in their 13 matches this season in all competitions, after a 2-0 home win against Brighton on 28 September.

Chelsea scored three times in the first half at Southampton on 6 October en route to a 4-1 win; following their 5-2 victory at Wolverhampton Wanderers on 14 September, they were only the third team to score three or more goals in consecutive away Premier League matches, after Manchester United (1993/94) and Tottenham (2018/19).

Tammy Abraham is the joint top scorer in this season's Premier League with eight goals, level with Sergio Agüero.

Chelsea were 7-1 winners against fourth division Grimsby in the English League Cup third round at Stamford Bridge on 25 September, their biggest win since a 6-0 defeat of Qarabag on Matchday 1 of the 2017/18 UEFA Champions League. They last scored seven goals in a game on 23 December 2012, when they beat Aston Villa 8-0 in the Premier League. It was Lampard's first home win as Chelsea manager at the fifth attempt.

The Blues drew 2-2 against Liverpool in the UEFA Super Cup on 14 August, losing 5-4 on penalties in Istanbul.

Jorginho converted a penalty as Italy beat Greece 2-0 in Rome on 12 October to qualify for UEFA EURO 2020.

Michy Batshuayi got Belgium's opening goal in a 2-0 EURO qualifying win in Kazakhstan on 13 October; the Red Devils had secured their place at UEFA EURO 2020 three days earlier.

Ross Barkley scored twice and set up another as England won 6-0 away to Bulgaria in UEFA EURO 2020 qualifying on 14 October. Olivier Giroud came off the bench to earn France a 1-1 home draw against Turkey the same night having also got the winner from the penalty spot in Iceland on 11 October.

On 15 October Hudson-Odoi scored twice in England's 5-1 win against Austria in UEFA European Under-21 Championship qualifying.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek has been out since 16 May with an Achilles tendon problem.

Antonio Rüdiger had been out since 28 April due to a knee injury before returning at Wolves on 14 September; he was withdrawn at half-time with a groin strain and has not played since.

Emerson Palmieri limped off with a thigh eight minutes into Italy's game in Finland on 8 September and returned against Liverpool on 22 September but had to be replaced early on after suffering a recurrence of the injury.

N'Golo Kanté suffered a groin injury in the warm-up for France's European Qualifier against Iceland on 11 October and had to pull out of the game; he was subsequently an unused substitute against Turkey but missed Chelsea's weekend win.

Andreas Christensen was replaced late on in Denmark's 1-0 home win against Switzerland in UEFA EURO 2020 qualifying on 12 October due to a thigh injury and has not played since.

Mateo Kovacic was withdrawn at half-time of Croatia's 1-1 EURO qualifying draw in Wales on 13 October having suffered a knock. He started on the bench on Saturday, replacing Barkley on 43 minutes after the latter picked up an ankle injury.

On 1 October Ashley Cole, who won the 2009/10 Premier League title, four FA Cups, the 2012 UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League the following year, rejoined Chelsea as an Under-15 coach.

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