Amsterdam Arena, Amsterdam
1st October, 19:45 BST
Ajax host AC Milan at the Amsterdam Arena tomorrow in the Champions League group stage fixture. These two sides with amazing history in this competition have had some memorable clashes in the past. AC Milan have won three of the last six matches between these two sides, but Ajax won the most recent matchup back in 2010. Demy de Zeeuw and Toby Alderweireld scored for the away side that night. AC Milan’s last visit to this stadium ended in a draw as Zlatan Ibrahimovic cancelled out Mounir El Hamdaoui’s opener.
Ajax has had a fairly disappointing start to their league campaign after winning just four of the eight league matches so far. But they are coming into this game on the back of a massive 6-0 victory over Go Ahead Eagles as Kolbeinn Sigthorsson scored a wonderful brace.
Ajax lost their opening game in the Champions League group stage against Barcelona at the Camp Nou. It was a disappointing result for Frank de Boer and his men, although not many away teams will get a positive result at that stadium. But the Ajax manager knows that they have to win their home matches in order to maintain their hopes of qualifying from this group and the result of this match against AC Milan can go a long way in deciding the final standing of this group.
Frank de Boer doesn’t have any injury worries ahead of this fixture. He is likely to make just one change to the side he fielded against Go Ahead Eagles last weekend. Lesley de Sa might lose his place in the side despite scoring and assisting in the last match as Kolbeinn Sigthorsson returns to the starting line-up after scoring a brace as a substitute.
Lionel Messi gave a hard time to the Ajax defence last time around, and this time they will be facing Mario Balotelli. The clean sheet last weekend was their first in 10 matches, after conceding 10 goals in the previous three games.
Frank de Boer was pleased with his side’s performance in the last league game and expects to produce more of the same against Milan.
“I wanted to see an Ajax that was aggressive in play, coaching, and fending off the opponent.
“And I saw that (against Go Ahead Eagles) for the entire 90 minutes. Then you see that both attacking and defending can be beautiful.
“We controlled and created opportunities. We showed passion and that is what we need to do on Tuesday.” – He said.
Expected starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Cillessen (GK); Blind, Denswil, Moisander, Rhijn; Duarte, Poulsen, Jong; Fischer, Sigthorsson, Bojan
Milan have made a poor start to their league campaign and are currently 9th in the league table after managing to win just two of their opening six matches. But they are coming into this fixture on the back of a good victory over Sampdoria as Valter Birsa’s second half goal proved to be the winner. Milan started their Champions League campaign with a comfortable victory over Celtic at home and would look to maintain that momentum against Ajax.
Massimiliano Allegri has a lot of injury concerns at the moment, something which is partly responsible for their poor start to this season. Matias Silvestre, Kaka, Stephan El Shaarawy, Mattia De Sciglio and Giampaolo Pazzini are all out of contention for this fixture with injuries. There are also doubts about the match fitness of Montolivo and the Italian is unlikely to feature.
Allegri is expected to make three changes to the starting line-up that was fielded against Sampdoria. Urby Emanuelson will replace Kevin Constant at the left back spot, while Antonio Nocerino will replace Andrea Poli in the midfield. The good news for Milan is the fact that Mario Balotelli will be back in action after missing out the last two Serie A matches. The Italian striker was suspended after he insulted the referee in the match against Napoli.
Balotelli’s return will be a huge boost and which would mean that Valter Birsa is likely to lose his place in the side despite scoring the winner in the last game. Milan’s defence has been a huge cause for concern this season and despite their clean sheet in their last game, the Italian side have conceded 10 in the previous five. Allegri knows that his side will have to fair better against a Ajax attack that is certainly capable of scoring goals.
Meanwhile Mario Balotelli is confident that his side will recover from the poor start and be at the top by Christmas.
“In the past few days I’ve had a knee problem but I am ready to play against Ajax.
“In Amsterdam, we want to give continuity to our victory over Celtic. Our aim is to arrive as calmly as possible to our double-header with Barcelona.
“We have been unlucky at the start of the season. But we are not inferior to any team and I’m sure that by Christmas we will be in the top positions.” – The AC Milan striker said.
Expected starting line-up (4-3-1-2): Abbiati (GK); Zaccardo, Zapata, Mexes, Emanuelson; Nocerino, Jong, Muntari; Robinho; Matri, Balotelli
Prediction: Ajax 2-2 AC Milan
Players to watch out for: Viktor Fischer (Ajax); Mario Balotelli (AC Milan)