Ajax v AC Milan
Group G, Amsterdam ArenA, Amsterdam
Ajax and Milan have won the European Cup 11 times between them but know that with Barcelona in their group one of them will definitely not make it to the next stage of this year’s competition. Ajax enter Matchday 2 on the back of a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Barcelona at the Camp Nou while AC Milan saw off the challenge of Scottish champions Glasgow Celtic with two late goals.
The Dutch giants come into this match on the back of a hugely impressive win thrashing Go Ahead Eagles 6-0 over the weekend. However, they have not beaten an Italian side for over eleven years and know that another defeat will surely spell the end as far as this European campaign is concerned. The hosts will be without former Barcelona starlet Bojan Krkic who injured his hamstring in the match against the Eagles.
Frank De Boer, the Ajax coach, who was involved in some titanic matches against Milan will again rely on the goal scoring prowess of striker Kolbeinn Sigthorsson. The hosts like to control possession and it will be interesting to see how they approach this match given the fact that Milan are a grade above what Ajax generally face domestically.
The Rossoneri have made a very unimpressive start to this year’s Serie A and coach Massimiliano Allegri will realise that cup competitions represent their best chance of silverware. Allegri can count on the returning Mario Balotelli to make a difference after the mercurial striker missed the last two games through suspension. The Italian should line up alongside Alessandro Matri in attack.
Milan will be without a few of their injured stars but should be buoyed by the fact that Stephan El Shaarawy & Riccardo Montolivo could feature against Ajax. The AC Milan midfield would also consist of Nigel De Jong and Urby Emanuelson who are products of the famed Ajax youth academy. Their presence would certainly help Allegri figure out their Dutch opposition.
This game could well end up being a stalemate as Ajax do not have the players to really trouble Milan and the Italians will be very happy to take a point back to Italy.
Prediction: Ajax 1-1 AC Milan
Players to watch out for: Kolbeinn Sigthorsson (Ajax); Riccardo Montolivo (AC Milan)
Celtic v Barcelona
Group G, Celtic Park, Glasgow
Celtic did the impossible last season when they beat Barcelona at Celtic Park and almost pulled off a miraculous point at the Camp Nou. If the Glasgow Giants are to repeat their success of last time round they will need to summon up all their energy and hope that the Catalans have an off day. Celtic will also draw some comfort from the fact that Lionel Messi will not feature in this game after injuring his hamstring over the weekend.
The Scottish champions produced an admirable display against Milan at the San Siro on Matchday 1 before succumbing to two late goals but Neil Lennon, the Celtic coach will know that his side will have to perform at supreme levels for the entire 90 minutes if they are to get anything from this game. Lennon will welcome back winger James Forrest to the side but fellow midfielders Joe Ledley and Derk Boerrigter are doubtful for this match.
La Blaugrana travel to Scotland without Messi but they still boast a lot of creativity and will hope that Neymar and co. can cover for the injured Argentine. The Catalans have made an impressive start to this year’s league campaign winning all of their seven matches. They also thrashed Ajax 4-0 in their first match of this year’s Champions League and will want some more of the same at Celtic Park.
In addition to Messi Barcelona will be without the services of Jordi Alba, Carles Puyol and Javier Mascherano. Barca however will be wary of the atmosphere at Parkhead and would want an early goal to silence the stands. They know that Celtic will be charged up for this occasion and in keeper Fraser Forster they have an adversary who thwarted them time and again the last time they met.
The team from Catalunya should ultimately win this one but a tough night awaits them if Celtic can score an early goal.
Prediction: Celtic 1-3 Barcelona
Players to watch out for: Georgios Samaras (Celtic); Neymar (Barcelona)