Ajax has reached the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League for the first time in 13 years, but they’ll have to defeat defending champions Real Madrid over two legs to advance in the competition. Real Madrid has regained their form at an optimal time for coach Santiago Solari, who has steered the team to a run of seven matches unbeaten (their best streak since Zinedine Zidane led the side).
Ajax, meanwhile, has gone in the opposite direction. Erik ten Hag’s team suffered a single competitive defeat between July and January (one loss in 32 matches) but have now lost two of their last three and are suddenly six points off Eredivisie leaders PSV.
The most recent of those was a surprise 1-0 defeat at Heracles on Saturday. Even worse, star midfielder Frenkie de Jong-who will join Barcelona in a £65 million deal this summer-suffered a knock and is now a doubt to face Real, per Sport .
Real have beaten the Godenzonen seven times in their 12 matchups, while Ajax has triumphed on four occasions. But the concern for them is they’ve lost convincingly in each of their last six clashes.
The two teams were drawn against one another in the Champions League group stage for three seasons running from 2010 to 2012. Real won all six meetings both home and away, and only once in those games did Ajax manage to lose by fewer than three goals (Los Blancos boast a 20-2 aggregate record against the Dutch giants in that time).
Ajax is still yet to lose in Europe this season and drew twice with continental heavyweights Bayern Munich during the group stage, but the restored Real will be firm favorites to qualify.
The Eredivisie’s young guns face a huge task in toppling the reigning kings of Europe, but Ajax will look to prove age is simply a number when they host Los Blancos at the Johan Cruyff Arena.
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