UEFA Champions League Qualifiers Handicapping Preview: Ajax vs. PAOK – Tuesday, August 13, 2019
UEFA Champions League Qualifiers
When: Tuesday, August 13, 2019, at 02:30 PM
Where: Johan Cruyff Arena, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Odds: Ajax Amsterdam -286, Draw +390, PAOK +540 @ BetOnline
PAOK will seek revenge for the past when Ajax Amsterdam take on the Greek Champions at the Johan Cruyff Arena for the second, decisive leg of their 2019-20 UEFA Champions League qualification match.
Winners of this clash will play either APOEL (Cyprus) or Qarabag (Azerbaijan) for a position in the group stage.
PAOK accomplished a domestic double last season, losing just twice in the course of their victorious campaign.
Moreover, The Black-Whites won the Greek Super League for the first time since 1985 and they did it in a fascinating manner – without a single loss – having 26 wins and 4 draws, conceding just 14 goals.
Similar to their Greek opponents, Ajax have completely conquered the domestic scene and the Amsterdammers were even extremely close to reach the Champions League Final. However, the Dutch giants were unfortunate to lose in the closing seconds of their second semi-final match against Tottenham Hotspur, so their Champions League dream has been cancelled.
Head-to-Head Stats (H2H)
PAOK and Ajax have some old scores to settle and the Black-Whites are those who need to seek redemption for the past – Ajax knocked out PAOK in two previous qualifiers – 2010/11 and 2016/17 – with both teams scoring in each of the games.
There are four draws and a sole success for the Dutch side (2-1 away in Greece in August 2016), but Ajax have scored seven of their nine goals against PAOK in Greece, while both previous meetings in the Netherlands have ended ended in a 1-1 draw.
Back to their last encounter, Hakim Ziyech opened the scoring for the visiting side before PAOK's rapid response with two goals by Chuba Apkom and Leo Matos. However, Ajax leveled in the second half with a goal by the Dutch veteran Klaas Jan Huntelaar who came on as a substitute for the injured Kasper Dolberg.
Ajax Amsterdam – Team News
The Dutch giants enjoyed a tremendous 2018-19 campaign which has been extended to the very beginning of the new season with the Super Cup (Johan Cruyff Shield) victory against PSV Eindhoven, although the Godenzonen already lost some key players in Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong.
Veteran Lasse Schone has also been sold to Italian Genoa, while younger players such as Maximilian Wober, Rasmus Kristensen and Daley Sinkgraven have all been transferred to various European clubs.
Ajax warmed up for the second leg against PAOK with a five-star triumph against FC Emmen in the Eredivisie, though Erik ten Hag's men must prepare themselves for a completely different game on Tuesday. However, the 5-0 win came in the right moment as the Amsterdammers failed to beat Vitesse in the opening Eredivisie round and were winless in three (including a friendly match against Sivasspor) prior to it.
Ten Hag used the potentially easy match against Emmen to boost his side's confidence and he fielded a strong XI, although Ajax travelled to Greece only a few days earlier. In fact, Ajax's starting lineup was almost the same that started in Thessaloniki, with Dusan Tadic replacing Kasper Dolberg on top, Razvan Marin starting in midfield and Joel Veltman replacing Perr Schuurs at centre-back.
PAOK – Team News
PAOK will start their domestic campaign later this month and the Greek champions are fully focused on the Champions League prospects as they aim to make their debut appearance in the group phase.
Their first official match of the season was against the Dutchmen last week and even though they were lacking match practice, Abel Ferreira's side were inspired by the home crowd and managed to comeback when Ajax hit first.
One week after the first round, The Double-headed Eagle of the North will fly to the Dutch capital with the only purpose to avoid another negative outcome against the Amsterdammers but the newly appointed Abel Ferreira (who previously led Portuguese Braga) won't be able to rely on some players who had their impact under Razvan Lucescu (who led PAOK until the end of the last season and won two Cups and the Greek Championship) – Vieirinha, Mauricio and Pontus Wernbloom are all injured, while Yevhen Shakhov, Jose Alberto Canas, and Pedro Henrique are among those who left the club.
Douglas Augusto, Dimitrios Limnios and Miroslav Stoch all came on the field as substitutes in the first leg and will hope to make it to the starting XI this time.
Possible Starting Lineups of Ajax and PAOK
AFC Ajax: Andre Onana – Nicolas Tagliafico, Lisandro Martinez, Perr Schuurs, Joel Veltman – Daley Blind, Donny van de Beek, Noussair Mazraoui – Dusan Tadic, Kasper Dolberg, Hakim Ziyech. (4-3-3)
PAOK Thessaloniki: Alexandros Paschalakis – Leo Matos, Fernando Varela, Jose Crespo, Dimitrios Giannoulis – Leo Jaba, Omar El Kaddouri, Anderson Esiti, Diego Biseswar – Dimitrios Pelkas, Chuba Akpom. (4-4-2)
Based on their head-to-head results and the departure of important figures such as De Ligt and De Jong, we expect another high-scoring match. PAOK have no other choice – they must score if they want to proceed and in the meantime, Ajax's firepower looks very capable of taking advantage of the situation.