Juventus will be aiming to make it through to the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League, when they face off against AFC Ajax on Tuesday night.
Juventus will welcome Dutch heavyweights AFC Ajax to the Allianz Stadium this week, for the second leg of their UEFA Champions League quarter-final tie.
Juventus seem to have the slightest of the edges heading into the game, owing to the away goal from the first leg that ended in a 1-1 draw, with Cristiano Ronaldo finding the back of the net. But, the Bianconeri come into the game having tasted a 2-1 defeat against SPAL at the weekend – just their second loss of the 2018-19 Serie A campaign.
In the last round, the Massimiliano Allegri’s side overturned a 2-0 first leg deficit to beat Atletico Madrid 3-2 on aggregate, with the Portuguese maverick bagging a hat-trick. They will be looking up to him for another match-winning display to take the team to the final four of the competition.
In Ajax, they will be facing a difficult opponent, who rose against the odds to beat Real Madrid in the previous round of the competition. The Dutch outfit went into the second leg with a first leg deficit, but thrashed the Merengues at the Santiago Bernabeu and will be aiming for a similar outcome in Turin on Tuesday night.
Erik ten Hag’s side, after managing to eke out a draw against Juventus, took apart Excelsior in the Eredivisie, beating them 6-2 at the weekend. They will be hoping to carry that momentum into their clash against the Serie A champions and reach the semi-finals.
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Emre Can is back from injury and is in the squad named by the manager. Defensive mainstay Giorgio Chiellini remains sidelined though, while Mario Mandzukic is also absent for Juventus. Blaise Matuidi returns from a minor trouble, while the likes of Miralem Pjanic and Cristiano Ronaldo are also back in the squad, after being rested for the match against SPAL.
Allegri fielded a much-changed side against SPAL at the weekend, but will bring back all his regulars for Tuesday’s clash, starting with Wojciech Szczesny, who will replace Mattia Perin between the sticks. Leonardo Bonucci will partner up with Daniele Rugani at the heart of Juventus defence, flanked by Joao Cancelo and Alex Sandro as the full-backs.
Pjanic will slot in as the deepest of the three central midfielders and look to pull strings for his side. Support for him will come from Rodrigo Bentancur, while Matuidi should also return to the lineup, completing the three-man midfield for the Bianconeri.
With Ronaldo back, he will take up one of the three slots in the final third for Juventus, while Federico Bernardeschi, who was very impressive in the second leg against Atletico, should also feature from kick-off against Ajax.
Paulo Dybala and Moise Kean will then be vying for the third spot. The youngster has been in tremendous form of late, but Allegri might look to go in with the more experienced option, using Kean as an impact substitute later in the game.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Szczesny; Cancelo, Bonucci, Rugani, Sandro; Bentancur, Pjanic, Matuidi; Dybala, Ronaldo, Bernardeschi
Ajax have been dealt with a big injury scare ahead of the game as midfield sensation Frenkie de Jong was taken off early in the game against Excelsior with a hamstring problem. The Dutchman, who will be joining Barcelona in the summer, has travelled with the squad though, and Erik ten Hag could decide to risk him in a game of this magnitude. Left-back Nicolas Tagliafico is suspended for the game.
In goal, there is no looking past Andre Onana for Ajax. He will be seeking all the protection he can get from the centre-back partnership of captain Matthijs de Ligt and experienced pro Daley Blind. Joel Veltman should feature as the right-back for the visitors, with Noussair Mazraoui likely to get the nod on the left-side in Tagliafico’s absence.
Lasse Schone will provide the Ajax rearguard protection from Juventus’ midfield runners. Operating on one side of the Dane will be 21-year-old Donny van de Beek, who will be tasked with providing the forward thrust from the centre.
The third midfield slot, in all likelihood, should be taken by de Jong. But, in case the Dutchman does not recover, Hakim Ziyech might be pulled back into central midfield. However, should the future Barcelona star feature, Ziyech will stick to his position on the right side of Ajax’s attacking trident.
Dusan Tadic will operate centrally for the visitors and look to cause problems to the Juventus defence by drifting out wide at every given opportunity, while David Neres will complete the trifecta for the Dutch heavyweights. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Kasper Dolberg will provide additional options in attack.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Onana; Veltman, de Ligt, Blind, Mazraoui; van de Beek, Schone, de Jong; Ziyech, Tadic, Neres
- Juventus are unbeaten in their last 10 meetings with Ajax in all competitions, the joint-longest such run for one side against another in European matches (also Bayern Munich vs Benfica).
- After a run of seven defeats in eight games away against Italian opposition (D1), Ajax are unbeaten in their last four such fixtures (W2 D2).
- Juventus are looking to reach the Champions League semi-finals for the third time in the last five seasons, also making the last four in 2014-15 and 2016-17.
- Ajax are looking to reach the semi-finals of the Champions League for the first time since 1996-97, while they could become the first Dutch side to do so since PSV in 2004-05.
- Dusan Tadic has been directly involved in 53% of Ajax’s 17 Champions League goals this season (6 goals, 3 assists). The last player to score more than the Serb for Ajax in a single Champions League campaign was Jari Litmanen in 1995-96 (9).
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With a 2-0 first leg deficit against Atletico Madrid in the Round of 16, Juventus needed a big performance and up stepped Cristiano Ronaldo, dragging the team through to the Last Eight stage with a sensational hat-trick in the second leg at home. The 34-year-old then netted in the first leg against Ajax – his 125th goal in the UEFA Champions League.
Ronaldo has scored in his last five Champions League games against Ajax, finding the back of the net on eight occasions in total. The former Real Madrid and Manchester United superstar has also scored 51% of his total goals in the competition in the knockout stages (64/125). Having been rested for the weekend league game, he will come in well-rested and will be a handful for Ajax to deal with.
Juventus 2-1 Ajax
Juventus have their noses slightly in front, courtesy of the away goal in Amsterdam last week. However, that is unlikely to deter Ajax, who showed what they are capable of when they beat Real Madrid 4-1 in their own backyard to qualify to the quarter-final.
The fact that Massimiliano Allegri’s men haven’t been at their best in recent weeks will not be lost on the visitors, who will take the game to them on Tuesday night. Juventus though, have been defeated just once at home across all competitions this season and as was seen against Atletico, will be hard to break down in front of their supporters.
It promises to be a pulsating encounter at the Allianz Stadium that is likely to see a lot of chances being created. Ajax will come hard at Juventus, but the Bianconeri should be able to stand the pressure and come away with a narrow win, with that man, Ronaldo, once again stepping up when needed.