AJAX - NICE
July 31, 2017
AN ICON IN THE SIGHTS
The Gym are preparing to face one of Europe's biggest clubs in its own backyard on Wednesday in the second leg of their UEFA Champions League third qualifying round tie (kick-off 20:45CEST).
A GIANT OF THE GAME
A four-time European champion (1971, 1972, 1973, 1995), Ajax also have a Cup Winners' Cup (1987) and a UEFA Cup (1992) in a well-stocked trophy cabinet, putting them alongside Bayern Munich, Juventus, Chelsea and Manchester United as the only sides to have won all three major European club competitions.
Cruyff, Rep, Neeskens, Van Basten, Rijkaard, Blind (father and son), Koeman, the De Boer brothers, Van der Sar, Davids, Seedorf, Overmars, Kluivert (father and son), Bergkamp…all have worn the shirt of this famous Dutch club (33 national titles) forever associated with the concept of 'total football' after their most glorious era in the 1970s.
Since 1996, Ajax have been playing in the superb Amsterdam ArenA, which boasts a retractable roof. It will be full to the rafters with a sell-out crowd of 54,000 on Wednesday, which should make the atmosphere quite special…
Eredivisie runner-up last season and UEFA Europa League finalist, Ajax built the lion's share of their 2016-17 success at home with 21 wins and just one defeat in 26 outings. Those stats give Dante & Co. some idea of the task in hand!
Unbeaten at home since 20 August 2016 and a league defeat to Willem II (1-2), Kasper Dolberg and his cohorts registered a 100% record in the Europa League with seven wins from seven, 15 goals scored (including four against Lyon in the semi-final) and just three conceded.
Though the foundations look solid, there are a few chinks in the armour that were exposed during the last Champions League qualifying campaign. In the third qualifying round and the play-off, Ajax could only draw 1-1 at home in both ties. That proved enough to see off PAOK (courtesy of a 2-1 win in Greece), but not Rostov (due to a 4-1 loss in Russia). One-all after 90 minutes would take Wednesday's tie into extra-time…