Normally Willem II shouldn’t be any problem for Ajax, especially at home. This season, however, the club from Tilburg is in the midst of an impressive Eredivisie campaign. Currently sitting on the 4th place, only two points behind PSV. Can they give Ajax a hard time in the Johan Cruijff ArenA?
The last time the two teams faced each other was during the KNVB Cup final. Ajax completely dominated their opponents and won the match easily with 4-0. Of the last eight games only once the club from Tilburg was able to beat Ajax in their own stadium, in 2016. The other seven times Ajax came out on top. Last season we played Willem II three times, two times in the Eredivisie (score: 2-0 and 1-4) and once in the KNVB Cup final (0-4).
Willem II in Europe?
So far this season Willem II has been exceding all expectations. The club is 4th in the standings and closing in rapidly on the number 3, PSV. The club managed by ex-Ajax manager Adrie Koster plays attractive football with quite some youngsters. Last week the club totally dominated Sparta in a 4-0 home victory. A fourth place is enough to qualify for the Europa League but Koster doesn’t want to think about that yet: “Don’t go crazy, reaching the play-offs (place 5-8) remains the goal for this season.”
Ajax will want to win this game while wasting as little energy as possible. In only four days Valencia comes to Amsterdam for the all-deciding Champions League game. The Amsterdammers will want to be totally fit and rested for that match. This will be one of the potential weaknesses of Ajax versus Willem II. They will have to guard for complacency. It takes less energy to hold a lead than to fight back from behind. In the article below, we’ve discussed five reasons why Willem II might cause for an upset and beat Ajax tonight.
One of the playmakers for Willem II this season has been Ché Nunnely. The 20-year-old winger made the transfer from Ajax to Tilburg this season. Even though he won the Keuken Kampion Divisie (second league) with Jong Ajax in 2018 he never made his debut for the first team. He’s been in form for Willem II this season. The start was a bit slow but in the last three games, he scored 3 times and assisted just as many goals. “If I will celebrate when I score? I don’t think I would unless I score a world-class goal. If I do celebrate I’d like to apologise in advance.” he says when asked what he’ll do on Friday.
The Greek striker Pavlidis is also one to keep an extra eye on. The 21-year-old, another young gun, has already bagged 8 goals this season.
Another puzzle for ten Hag
Erik ten Hag will probably field the same players as he did versus FC Twente (2-5). The only difference will be the unavailability of Quincy Promes who got injured versus Twente. As David Neres and Zakaria Labyad are also injured it seems incredibly likely that Noa Lang will start again. He’ll be extra confident after he scored a hat-trick last game. the two most logical options to replace Promes are either Ziyech or Tadic. The Ziyech variant will mean that Tadic will move to CAM and Huntelaar as a striker. The Tadic version will mean that Ziyech can stay as CAM and van de Beek will move up from CM to CAM, his position could be taken by either Álvarez or Marin.
Expected Line-up Ajax: Onana; Dest, Veltman, Blind, Tagliafico; van de Beek, Martínez; Lang, Tadic, Ziyech; Huntelaar
Expected Line-up Willem II: Wellenreuther; Nieuwkoop, Holmen, Peters, Heerkens; Saddiki, Ndayishmiye, Llonch; Nunnely, Pavlidis, Köhlert