Group H high-flyers Valencia and Ajax go head to head at the Mestalla as both sides look to record 6 points from their opening two games in the Champions League.
Valencia’s season has already seen plenty of ups and downs, following the unexpected sacking of manager Marcelino some time ago. Their former boss was ejected following disagreements with the board and not for sporting reasons. Much of the fiasco has effected their form domestically, where they sit in 9th place, but Los Che have started their Champions League campaign on a fine note.
Valencia recorded a dramatic late win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Matchday 1, with a Rodrigo goal settling matters. They will be hoping to continue that fine start with a win over visiting Ajax at the Mestalla, but it would be a difficult challenge against Group H leaders.
Valencia might have been on top of their group, if not for Ajax winning their opening match against Lille at home with a 3-0 scoreline. Ajax, with that win, at least are on track to prove that their success last season does not have a dizzying effect on their current form. Despite the sale of two of their big stars from last season, Ajax, boast the talent that could surprise a few this season as well.
Ajax, like Valencia, will be hoping for success on Matchday 2, and what better way to announce themselves for this season than a victory at the Mestalla. A win would certainly put Erik Ten Hag’s side in firm control of their group, irrespective of what happens in the other game. Overall, this encounter between Valencia and Ajax has the ingredients for an entertaining encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Valencia have a lengthy injury list to contend with before the Ajax game, with some of their key players out of the clash. Carlos Soler, Cristiano Piccini, Jose Gaya, and Kevin Gameiro are all out of the clash, along with Geoffrey Kondogbia. The above list of players are bonafide starters for Valencia and will be missed sorely.
Mouctar Diakhaby could come into the side and slot in central defence in place of Ezequiel Garay, who recently returned from an injury. Gabriel Paulista is expected to be his partner there, with Jaume Costa at left-back and Daniel Wass on the right side in support.
Valencia are expected to field a 4-4-2, with Ferran Torres likely to start on the right wing. Goncalo Guedes and Denis Cheryshev are expected to compete for a starting berth on the left-wing, although it looks like the Russian would be the one starting. Dani Parejo and Francis Coquelin are likely to begin the game in central midfield.
Maxi Gomez and Rodrigo Moreno are the likeliest choices as the two strikers to help get the goals for Valencia.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Cillessen; Wass, Paulista, Diakhaby, Costa; Torres, Parejo, Coquelin, Cheryshev; Gomez, Rodrigo
Ajax have a clean bill of health with none of their squad members suspended nor injured for this clash. Ten Hag could experience a selection headache as he would ponder his strongest possible starting team.
Ten Hag could undoubtedly make a few changes from the last Champions League game with Donny van de Beek expected to be back in the side after missing the Lille clash. David Neres, who only came on as a substitute in the last league game, maybe handed a start against Valencia.
Ten Hag will still have plenty of talent at his disposal and looks like he might opt for a 4-2-3-1 formation to combat Valencia. Nicolas Tagliafico and Sergino Dest could start as full-backs with Joel Veltman and Daley Blind expected to form the central defensive pairing. van de Beek and Lisandro Martinez might start in central midfield, with Quincy Promes set for a No.10 role.
Hakim Ziyech and David Neres could provide width from either flank with Dusan Tadic likely to start as Ajax’s central striker.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Onana; Dest, Veltman, Blind, Tagliafico; van de Beek, Martinez; Ziyech, Promes, Neres; Tadic
- It will be the third Champions League meeting between Valencia and Ajax, with both previous games ending in a 1-1 draw.
- It will be their first clash since March 2003. Valencia have yet to lose against Dutch teams in the Champions League, winning two and drawing four.
- Ajax have lost 11 of their last 13 Champions League matches versus Spanish teams (W2).
- Valencia are looking to record three consecutive home victories in the Champions League for the first time since a run of four wins between November 2011 and November 2012.
- Ajax have won their last four away games in the Champions League; their longest winning run in the competition since March 1997 (7 away games) under Louis Van Gaal.
Player to Watch
The Valencia striker was the hero in the first matchday after securing the goal that handed the three points to his team against Chelsea. Valencia were behind in the quality of chances and overall gameplay against the Premier League side for almost the whole game. Still, the clinical finish from Rodrigo was all that mattered.
Turning their attention to this home clash, Valencia will be relying on Rodrigo to get the goals, and he will be a real threat up front. An excellent performance against Ajax could put Valencia on top of the table, and additionally help their fans forget that their star man almost joined Atletico Madrid in the close season before the move fell through. Will Rodrigo be Valencia’s hero once more?
Valencia 1-1 Ajax
Many wrote Ajax off for this season’s Champions League following the high profile departures of key men Frenkie De Jong and Mattijs De Ligt in the close season. The Amsterdam side have since bounced back from those departures to perform admirably so far and are expected to continue with their excellent form against Valencia.
However, Valencia are on a good run in the competition and will not be easily beaten on their home turf. That brings us to the conclusion that both teams will find it difficult to break each other down. So expect this game to end in a draw.