Defending champions Real Madrid face Ajax at the Amsterdam ArenA in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.
Amsterdam Arena, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Key Stat: Real Madrid have won their last six consecutive games against Ajax, with the last five of those by a margin of at least three goals.
Expert Verdict: History is on Real Madrid’s side in this fixture - they have beaten Ajax the last six times in a row, and comfortably too. Their form earlier this season was unconvincing to say the least, but Madrid looked to have turned a corner more recently and the three-time, back-to-back defending Champions League winners remain favourites for this one.
Frenkie de Jong is a doubt for Ajax’s match with Real Madrid having gone off injured against Heracles at the weekend. Youngster Dani de Wit is the central midfielder on the bench and could start.Kasper Dolberg was rested for the match and is likely to come back into the starting line-up in place of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. Joel Veltman is back from injury, but Rasmus Kristensen has started at right-back in the last two matches.
Kasper Dolberg – Rested at the weekend, the highly-rated Danish forward is likely to start against Real Madrid as he seeks his tenth goal of the season.
Hakim Ziyech – The Albanian playmaker has set up 12 goals so far this season and scored 14 too.
Dusan Tadic – Hit a rich vein of goalscoring form to move to 22 scored with 13 assists in his first season since signing from Southampton.
Ajax have been in inconsistent form of late, winning just one of their last four league matches. That win was a convincing one, thrashing VVV 6-0 at home, but they lost both matches either side – a 6-2 defeat to Feyenoord and 1-0 loss at Heracles last time out. Lasse Schone and Hakim Ziyech scored against Feyenoord, before Ziyech, Kasper Dolberg, Dusan Tadic, David Neres, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Donny can de Beek scored in the defeat of VVV. They went goalless last time out, however, and find themselves six points off top in the Eredivisie.
Defenders:Rasmus Kristensen, Matthijs de Ligt, Daley Blind, Nicolas Tagliafico
Midfielders:Donny van de Beek, Dani de Wit, Lasse Schone
Forwards:Hakim Ziyech, Kasper Dolberg, Dusan Tadic
Isco is suffering from back trouble which could rule him out of the trip to Amsterdam, while Jesus Vallejo (hamstring) and Marcos Llorente (abductor) were already ruled out. Marco Asensio is back in contention, but Vinicius Junior might continue. Gareth Bale could start ahead of Lucas Vazquez, having been a substitute at the weekend.
Karim Benzema – The Frenchman continues to be Real Madrid’s top scorer with 18 to his name this season, alongside seven assists.
Gareth Bale – Scored his 100th Real Madrid goal to seal the derby win against Atletico last time out and now has 12 goals and five assists for the season.
Vinicius Junior – Highly-rated teenage winger has now contributed 11 assists this season and looks to have made left-wing spot his own.
Real Madrid have won six of their last seven matches and drew in the first leg of their Copa del Rey tie with Barcelona in the other match. Lucas Vazquez netted in that draw with Barca, while Karim Benzema, Vinicius Junior and Mariano Diaz had all scored in a 3-0 win at home to Alaves the previous weekend. Last time out, in the Madrid derby, Casemiro opened the scoring and Sergio Ramos’ penalty and Gareth Bale’s 100th Real goal earned a 3-1 win at Atletico.
Defenders:Dani Carvajal, Raphael Varane, Sergio Ramos, Sergio Reguilon
Midfielders:Toni Kroos, Casemiro, Luka Modric
Forwards:Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, Vinicius Junior
This will be the 13th European match between Ajax and Real Madrid – more than the Dutch have played against any other team – with the defending champions going into this game on the back of a six-match winning streak in this fixture.
Ajax have won four of the previous 12 games in total, while there has been one draw and seven Real Madrid wins. They met in the group stage in three consecutive seasons between 2010 and 2012, with the Spanish side winning all six games – 2-0 and 4-0 in 2010, 3-0 in both in 2011 and 4-1 in both the following year. Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick and Karim Benzema was also on target when they last met at the Amsterdam ArenA – Niklas Moisander scoring the hosts’ solitary goal.
Ajax’s form has dropped in recent weeks – conceding four in a draw with Heerenveen and six in a loss to Feyenoord before last weekend’s latest setback at Heracles.
Injury to one of their star men, Frenkie de Jong, will not help their cause either when they welcome the defending European champions to Amsterdam.
For their part, Real Madrid are very much on the up. Victory against Atletico at the weekend continued their winning streak in the league, with Santiago Solari having put the poor start to the season under Julen Lopetegui firmly behind them.
Gareth Bale stepped off the bench to score his 100th goal in that game, having put in some indifferent displays on his return from his latest injury before that, while Vinicius Junior continues to go from strength to strength.
Karim Benzema leads the way up front and the midfield core o Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemiro has been vital to their European success.
Madrid also have an excellent record in this fixture, with six wins from their last six Champions League matches against Ajax – even if a lot of the personnel have changed since the latest meeting in 2012.
Nevertheless, it is the La Liga side who start as favourites for this one and they can put themselves in firm control of this tie with a good first leg result against out-of-form Ajax in Amsterdam.
Given their much better form, it is no surprise to find Real Madrid odds-on favourites to beat Ajax – they are a best price of 10/11 with Bet365 and 10Bet to win.
Ajax conceded four against Heerenveen and six against Feyenoord, while Real Madrid have beaten them by at least three goals in five of the last six meetings between them. Over 3.5 goals returns a best price of 7/5 with 888sport.
Ajax do have their own attacking strengths, however. Both teams to score is 13/25 with 888sport, while Real to win and BTTS is worth 11/5 with Betfair and 888sport.
Karim Benzema leads the goalscoring charts for Real this season and the Frenchman – who scored last time the teams met in Amsterdam – is a best price of 5/4 with Bet365 and 10Bet to score at any time.
Real Madrid come into this game in good form while, simply put, Ajax do not. The La Liga side have scored plenty in this fixture and can do the same again.