Champions League is back on the menu! Ajax faces Lille in the second to last game of the group stage. Even though Ajax is leading the group at the moment even ending last is still a possibility. All to play for!
Group H of the Champions League is still tremendously exciting. Three teams; Ajax, Chelsea and Valencia, all have 7 points. A win versus Lille would help Ajax massively in their journey to reach the KO stage. Lille is almost knocked out of Europe with only one point from four matches. The Lille manager admitted that things aren’t going too well at the club, that has also dropped into mid-level in Ligue 1.
I think they’ll storm at us from the first minuteErik ten Hag expects an entertaining match
The previous meeting between the two sides in Amsterdam resulted in a seemingly convincing victory for Ajax: 3-0. The score does make it seem a bit more one sided than it actually was, though. Lille could have gotten a penalty in the first minute and their rapid striker, Oshimen, should have probably scored at least twice. That having said – Ajax could have scored a few more times, too. “The score paints a different picture than the actual match,” according to ten Hag.
Ten Hag expects an entertaining match in Lille: “I think they’ll storm at us from the first minute. That’s their spirit and they did it in Amsterdam as well.” The Lille manager corroborates this: “But even if we only have one point, we’re talking about a Champions League match. We want to give it our all at this level and get a result. We can do that without feeling any kind of pressure, but we have to make sure that we operate at the highest level.”
Dilemma’s at the back for both teams
We probably all know by now that Ajax has some problems to solve for the central defending duo. Both Veltman and Blind got a red card last CL game vs Chelsea and will have to watch the game from the stands. There are three likely contenders for those two spots; Schuurs, Martínez and Álvarez. It seems like the right centre-back position will be filled in by Schuurs. He also played there last game vs Heracles. That leaves the left position open for one of the two Latin American players. They both have their pros and cons: Martínez is left-footed and has played more this season. Álvarez is taller and if he plays in the defence Martínez can stay at midfield where he has impressed so far this season.
Mazraoui got substituted in the last game with some pains. “We can’t give any statements on Mazraoui, he has a bruised knee and can’t move at a 100%. He will train tonight but we’re not sure if he’ll be there tomorrow.” ten Hag stated during the press conference on Tuesday. His obvious replacement would be Sergiño Dest, who will probably be playing.
Ajax isn’t the only team with problems in the back-line. Both the usual centre-backs of Lille, Fonte and Soumaoro are injured. So Galtier also has a puzzle to solve.Normally biggest threat of LOSC would be their fast striker Oshimen. He’s however in quite a form crisis, where he scored five goals in his first five matches for Lille he only managed to bag one in his last five matches. PSG-academy player Ikoné is also a dangerous asset of the French team and ex-Bayern midfielder Renato Sanches can always turn the game upside down. Ajax is in for a real battle.
Expected line-up LOSC:
Maignan; Celik, Djalo, Magelheas, Mandava; André, Soumaré; Ikoné, Yazici, Sanches; Oshimen.
Expected line-up Ajax:
Onana; Dest, Schuurs, Álvarez, Tagliafico; Martínez, van de Beek; Labyad, Ziyech, Promes; Tadic.