Ajax host Juventus in the first leg on their quarter final Champions League meeting, kicking off at 9:00pm local time at the Johan Cruijff ArenA on Wednesday night. Both sides had to produce remarkable comebacks in the previous round to get here, and are now four matches away from the final.
Home Team: Ajax
Ajax are having a fantastic season under manager Erik ten Hag, as their 4-1 win over Willem II put them to the top of the Dutch league for the first time this calendar year, and they have reached a milestone of 100 goals in the process. Their title fight with PSV will go down to the wire, with them level on points, as it ensures to be a gripping finale to the season. In the Champions League, Ajax have surpassed many people’s expectations, as last season they lost in the Champions League and Europa League qualifying rounds.
A bad year, one of the worse in their history, has been followed by quite an extraordinary one. Their 4-1 win in the Santiago Bernabeu against was one of their greatest ever away results, and one of the Champions League greatest comebacks. They’ll be underdogs again when facing Juventus, but a team full of great ability, that includes Dudan Tadic, Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt, will not be taken lightly by the giant Italian club.
Away Team: Juventus
Juventus are just a few wins away from claiming their 8th consecutive title in Italy, and their league title has been won at consummate ease most of the time in recent seasons. Primarily, they are judged on their Champions League performance, and although being very competitive, they have come up just a little bit short in recent memory. Cristiano Ronaldo was purchased last summer, and it was shown exactly why as he was the reason Juventus were able to overturn their 2-0 deficit to Atletico Madrid in the previous round, as he scored a hat-trick to get the win. He has been nursing an injury of late, but manager Massimiliano Allegri has said he should be fit in time for this clash.
Juventus will consider themselves strong favourites for the tie, and one of the favourites to go all the way. There is a feeling within the camp that they may break their hoodoo in the Champions League, and they will hope to deliver a better first-leg performance in this quarter final, than they did in the previous round.
Head to Head
The clubs have played each other competitively 12 times in their history, with Juventus having the edge with 7 victories, with Ajax only winning twice. The sides have met in the Champions League final twice in their history, with Ajax winning the final back in 1973, for Juventus to get their revenge by winning it in 1996 – their most recent success in this competition.
The sides latest meeting was 9 seasons ago, when they met in the Europa League with Juventus winning in Amsterdam, before a dull draw in Turin in the return fixture. In Amsterdam, the sides have played 5 times before, and Ajax have only won just the once, way back in the 1974/1975 season. Juventus have been undefeated in their last four visits, and won the last three by a 1-goal margin.[geot exclude_country="US" ][/geot]
Predictions and Betting Tips
[geot exclude_country="US,CA" ][/geot]The visitors are slight favourites to win on the night at 6/5, with Ajax priced at 9/4 to win in front of their own fans. For the sides to draw, that is priced at 23/10. To qualify, you can back Ajax at 11/4, or Juventus at 1/4. Ajax have been put in great shifts at home to huge clubs in this seasons Champions League, including Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, but were unfortunate not to win either one. I expect this one to be the most difficult game, as Juventus will plan to keep Ajax out for the whole 90 minutes and rely on their attacking potential to grab a goal or two. I think that this will be a 1-1 draw (5/1), with Juventus to qualify comfortably over two legs. For the hosts, the man in form is Dudan Tadic, and he is at 5/1 to score the first goal in the game.
[geot country="US,CA" ][/geot]There’s no prize for guessing that Ronaldo is favourites to score first for the visitors, priced at 3/1, but to boost odds even more, I’d fancy Miralem Pjanic to score first at 10/1 – with him being a free-kick specialist. There used to be many low scoring games at these stages before, but in recent years there have been more goals. It may be wise to bet on there to be over 2.5 goals, priced at a reasonable 10/11. Finally, my special tip today would be to back the first goal to come from a header from either side (Ronaldo, most likely), at a generous 9/2.
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