Chelsea will look to carry their domestic momentum to the Champions League as they host an Ajax side looking to exact revenge on Tuesday.
Things are all rosy at Stamford Bridge right now. Frank Lampard has just equalled the club record of 7 straight away wins in all competitions and there’s quite a camaraderie building up within the squad. Players look hungry to prove themselves and to help their teammates do the same.
But, cup competitions are a different beast. Out of the Carabao Cup thanks to a defeat to Manchester United, Chelsea need a positive result against Ajax on Tuesday to cement their chances of qualifying from Group H to the Knockout Phase.
For Ajax, the entire season is an attempt to sustain the levels of success they achieved in Europe last season, albeit without three core stars who left the club for greener pastures in the summer. Domestically, Ajax are six points clear at this point in Eredivisie. But, their defeat to Chelsea at home in the Champions League brought an end to a run for the ages.
Now, the focus will shift to Stamford Bridge as Ajax look to inflict the same damage Chelsea did last matchday. The Hard Tackle now takes a closer look at the two teams.
Team News & Tactics
Frank Lampard has just one long-term absentee in Ruben Loftus-Cheek now. But, there are late fitness calls that will have to be made on the likes of Ross Barkley, N’Golo Kante, Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen. None of them should be risked against Ajax on Tuesday, though.
Kepa should start in goal, with a back four of Cesar Azpilicueta, Kurt Zouma, Fikayo Tomori and Emerson Palmieri guarding him. Italian international Emerson has returned to full fitness and should resume his duties as the first-choice left-back for Chelsea.
With Barkley and Kante unlikely to be risked, the midfield should consist of Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic and Mason Mount, who will drop back into the midfield.
Christian Pulisic’s form is likely to see him start against Ajax, with Tammy Abraham a shoe-in as well. Willian should fill out the starting eleven.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Kepa; Azpilicueta, Zouma, Tomori, Emerson; Kovacic, Jorginho, Mount; Willian, Abraham, Pulisic
Lisandro Martinez was a casualty in the 4-2 win over the weekend over PEZ Zwolle and is unlikely to start against Chelsea on Tuesday. His substitute Edson Alvarez suffered a similar fate after coming on for Martinez and will also miss out.
Sergino Desti should return to the starting lineup and assume his position on the right side of the back four. Joel Veltman, Daley Blind and Nicolas Tagliafico should complete the back four, with Andre Onana the firm first-choice in goal for Ajax.
Razvan Marin should be partnered by the engine that is Donny van de Beek in the midfield pivot, with a prolific trio of Hakim Ziyech, Quincy Promes and David Neres supporting the attack. Dusan Tadic will be the unorthodox forward but, in most cases, it will be Quincy Promes who will be the furthest forward for Ajax in attack.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Onana, Dest, Veltman, Blind, Tagliafico; van de Beek, Marin; Ziyech, Promes, Neres; Tadic
1. Chelsea have kept two clean sheets in their last 3 home games in all competitions.
2. Chelsea have scored at least once in their last 10 games in all competitions, with their last blank coming in a 1-0 defeat to Valencia.
3. Ajax have scored twice as many (6 vs 3) goals in the Champions League compared to Chelsea.
4. Ajax have only conceded once in 3 Champions League matches so far this season. But, the solitary goal conceded came in a 1-0 defeat to Chelsea in Amsterdam.
5. Ajax have five different scorers so far in the Champions League this season.
Player to Watch
A player who has started the season well and is gaining admirers with each passing appearance; Hakim Ziyech is the highest rated player for Ajax so far this season and it is little surprise as to why. 6 goals and 8 assists so far, Ziyech has been part of the blitz that has, sort of, made Ajax fans not miss the likes of Matthijs de Ligt, Kasper Dolberg and Frenkie de Jong.
A dominating display against Chelsea will go a long way towards securing a move for the upcoming season.
Chelsea 1-1 Ajax
Chelsea have surprised many, including their own fans, with the start they have had under Frank Lampard. But, the match against Ajax could be the start of a series of complicated fixtures that could derail the hype train at Stamford Bridge. Their home record isn’t particularly great either and Ajax will come in with the sole mission of not losing the tight grasp on Chelsea on the standing table.
Chelsea and Ajax are both exciting going forward and while their last game was a bit of a tepid affair, expect both teams to get on the scoresheet. A scoring draw is our pick for the game.