The Ajax of 2010 are far removed from the sides that dominated Europe in the early 70s and mid 90s but there is an exciting group of players in Amsterdam at present and they can qualify for the Champions League groups stages on Wednesday.
New boss Martin Jol would have been delighted to return to the Dutch capital with a 1-1 draw from their first leg clash in Ukraine against Dynamo Kyiv, never an easy place to visit, and the hosts should be too strong in front of their own fans.
Ajax broke their own 40 year old-record last season when smashing 106 goals in an incredible Eredivisie campaign but even a positive goal difference of 86 wasn’t enough to see them land the title, finishing a point behind Steve McLaren’s FC Twente, and Jol will be desperate to land some silverware this time around.
It is unlikely to come in this competition but just qualifying for the tournament proper would be classified as an achievement and Jol will have his sights set firmly on domestic success. >
Ajax won all but one of their top flight games at the Amsterdam Arena in 2009/10, held at home to a goalless draw by Sparta Roterdam, and their goal scoring feats were quite phenomenal. Star striker Luis Suarez helped himself to 35, it’s now 57 in 64 Eredivisie games for the Uruguayan, and he’ll be hoping to fire his team into Thursday’s draw.
Suarez leads the line magnificently and while he saw former partner Marko Pantelic depart for Olympiacos in the summer, Jol was quick to replace the Serbian. Mounir el Hamdaoui arrived from AZ Alkmaar on the back of 20 league goals last season and has hit the ground running for his new club.
The Moroccan striker has four goals in his first three matches for Ajax and Kyiv will have to be very wary of the threat that duo pose.
The Ukrainian league runners-up, Kyiv finished six points behind Shakhtar Donetsk, won eight of their 15 top flight away matches last season but they have started the current campaign sluggishly and a 3-1 defeat at Vorskla last time out saw them slip five points behind their main title rivals already.
Kyiv have an abundance of Champions League experience to call upon on Wednesday, not least from legendary striker Andriy Shevchenko, but the force is with Ajax and the visitors look a little exposed to me.
The emergence of youngsters such as Holland World Cup stars Gregory van der Weil, Demy de Zeeuw and goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg give Ajax fans something to look forward to over the coming years, providing they can hang onto their top men, and a confidence boosting 3-0 win over Roda on the weekend will have teed them nicely up for this.
On a tricky night of punting in the Champions League, Ajax are easily the best option to prevail at the prices on offer and I think the quotes of 1.83 with a variety of firms still underestimates their prospects of advancing with a win.
2pts Back Ajax (vs. Dynamo Kyiv) @ 1.83 (various)