Borussia Dortmund are aiming to pip ahead of Ajax in Group C as the two teams meet each other in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Borussia Dortmund will have the opportunity to move to the top spot in Group C of the UEFA Champions League as they take on Ajax, at the Johann Cruyff Arena on Tuesday.

It is a clash between two of the group favourites as they battle it out for the top spot that could ensure a relatively easier draw in the Round of 16. Both the teams have started the campaign with back-to-back wins over Besiktas and Sporting CP respectively, with Ajax, in particular, raising many eyebrows with their free-scoring form so far.

But their attack will be tested when they take on a Dortmund side that has conceded only one goal in two matches so far. Marco Rose’s men have failed to keep a clean sheet in the Bundesliga so far, but there has been an evident shift in dynamics, in regards to their approach, with Dortmund now more likely to operate as a pragmatic unit rather than going all-out offensively.

Ajax defence hasn’t been any slouch either, having conceded just two goals in seven matches in the Eredivisie. Their coach Erik ten Haag, though, will be well aware of the quality of their midweek opponent, who boast one of the best attacking units in all of Europe.

Hence, this promises to be an exciting encounter as the two teams look to figure out the ideal approach, in an attempt to secure a victory and become the favourite to finish top of Group C. And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will take a closer look at the teams ahead of their blockbuster clash tomorrow.

Tactics & Team News

Ajax

Ajax have enjoyed a lot of success with the attacking combination of Antony, Dusan Tadic and new signing Steven Berghuis, who usually operates in the middle. The three have created a marvellous combination and their seemingly telepathic understanding could be vital as Ajax look to get the better of the Dortmund defence.

However, in addition to having an excellent creative unit, it is essential for Ajax that their frontline striker Sebastien Haller continues his excellent form in front of goal. The former Eintracht Frankfurt forward has netted 11 goals in 12 competitive matches this season, four of which came in the thumping win over Sporting in the opening matchday.

Elsewhere, ten Haag will be hoping for additional resistance in midfield, with Ryan Gravenberch and Edson Alvarez operating in the double-pivot. It will be interesting to see how they deal with Dortmund’s flexible 4-3-3 that usually consists of three ball carriers that make it incredibly difficult for the opposition to mark them out of the game.

Hence, Ajax may even need to consider bringing an extra man in midfield, But the real defensive onus will be on the central defensive duo of Jurrien Timber and Lisandro Martinez, with additional support from the full-backs Noussair Mazraoui and Daley Blind, as they look to cover Remko Pasveer in goal.

Pasveer is Ajax’s third-choice goalkeeper. He is having to play in the absence of the injured Maarten Stekelenburg while Andre Onana is still serving his nine-month suspension.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Pasveer; Mazraoui, Timber, Martinez, Blind; Gravenberch, Alvarez; Antony, Berghuis, Tadic; Haller

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Borussia Dortmund

Marco Rose has delivered a few positive updatess heading into this game, including the confirmed return of Dan-Axel Zagadou to the matchday squad. The defender should start on the bench, potentially replacing Mats Hummels in the second half, in an otherwise unchanged BVB backline that will look to retain another clean sheet.

Among the BVB defenders, Nico Schulz will have a point to prove as he continues to step in for the injured Raphael Guerreiro at left-back. The German needs to offer more quality upfront if he is to have a future at Dortmund, whereas Thomas Meunier, on the opposite flank, is arguably enjoying the best season of his career so far.

In midfield, Rose has a decision to make in the number six position. Emre Can had started the weekend game against Mainz, but the German might make way for a more composed Axel Witsel. The Belgian will screen the backline, just behind the two advanced midfielders in Jude Bellingham and Julian Brandt.

Marco Reus, the central attacking midfielder, should join in on the act, as part of three number tens that usually support the two centre forwards in Erling Haaland and Donyell Malen.

Malen will be given more freedom in regards to his movements, often shifting out on the left flank if Schulz doesn’t make a run forward. Reus, Bellingham and Brandt, meanwhile, will rely on quick one-twos to create passing opportunities for Haaland in behind the defence, with Meunier offering the width on the right-hand side.

Probable Lineup (4-3-1-2): Kobel; Meunier, Akanji, Hummels, Schulz; Bellingham, Witsel, Brandt; Reus; Haaland, Malen

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Key Stats

  • Ajax and Borussia Dortmund last faced in the 2012-13 UEFA Champions League group stages – the Germans won both games, 1-0 at home and 4-1 at the Johan Cruyff Arena.
  • In the two previous Champions League campaigns that Ajax and Dortmund have faced, one of them has reached the final and ended runners-up; in 1995-96, Ajax knocked out Dortmund in the quarter-final before losing on penalties to Juventus in the final, while in 2012-13, they met in the group stage and Dortmund went on to lose the final against Bayern Munich.
  • Borussia Dortmund have won their last two major European matches in the Netherlands, winning 3-1 against PSV in October 2002 and 4-1 vs Ajax in November 2012, both in the Champions League. Their last defeat on Dutch soil was in the 2002 UEFA Cup final, a 3-2 defeat in Rotterdam against Feyenoord under Matthias Sammer.
  • Following victories in their last two outings in the competition, Ajax are looking to win their opening three games of a Champions League campaign for the first time since 1995-96 under Louis van Gaal, which was the last time they had reached the final (lost on penalties to Juventus).
  • Borussia Dortmund have won four of their last five away matches in the Champions League; more than they had in their previous 15 on the road.

Player to Watch

Erling Haaland

After missing out a few games due to injury, prior to the international break, Erling Haaland returned with a bang this weekend, scoring a brace in the 3-1 win over Mainz. The Dortmund striker will now hope to replicate that performance in his favourite tournament when he takes on Ajax this midweek.

Haaland already has a stellar record in the Champions League, having scored 21 goals in just 17 outings. At the age of just 21, he has surpassed players like Eden Hazard and Gareth Bale in terms of goals scored in the coveted competition. And with that in mind, it will be interesting to see whether the Norwegian can extend on his record against Ajax.

Prediction

Ajax 1-3 Borussia Dortmund

Borussia Dortmund’s pragmatic style of play is paying dividends as the Black and Yellows have grown much stronger defensively. They might struggle dealing with Ajax’s supply line this midweek, but with Haaland back to full fitness, we are expecting the visitors to run rings around the opposition defence.

The likes of Reus, Bellingham and Brandt have been in sublime touch lately and now with the Norwegian spearheading the attack, it won’t be surprising to see Dortmund securing a comfortable 3-1 victory and move on top of Group C.

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