Ajax host Benfica at Johan Cruijff Arena on Tuesday night in the UEFA Champions League round of 16-second leg. The first meeting saw Ajax twice give up leads to draw 2-2 in Portugal. The Dutch giants won all of their group matches this season and have netted two or more goals in all seven Champions League matches this season. Benfica famously beat Barcelona 3-0 on the way to finishing second in their group.
Ajax have lost just one of their last 15 matches in all competitions, a 2-1 loss at Go Ahead Eagles in late February, a few days after the first leg against Benfica. They responded to that loss with three successive domestic victories, 2-0 at AZ (in a cup game), 3-2 at home against RKC Waalwijk, and 3-2 at Cambuur. They sit top of the log with two leads over PSV.
Ajax’s last three league matches have seen six goals conceded, more than they leaked in the previous 23 Eredivisie matches combined. In the Champions League, they have scored 22 goals in seven matches (six wins and the first leg draw) but have conceded in each of their last four.
Ajax Team News
The big injury news is that With Maarten Stekelenburg and Remko Pasveer both sidelined in goal, Andre Onana will feature as the goalkeeper in this one. He has already agreed on a transfer to Inter Milan for next season.
Sean Klaiber is also ruled out at right, while midfielder Mohammed Ihattaren will need a late fitness test. Brian Brobbey and Jurrien Timber are both fit after knocks and give Erik ten Hag good options from the bench.
Motivation for this match will be huge. The Dutch side will desperately want to be in the quarter-final draw. They will throw men forward in this match and look to outscore their opponents.
At no point will Ajax sit back and protect a lead; they will go in search of more goals until the final whistle.
The Eagles sit third in the Portuguese Primeira Liga, a full 12 points off Porto and almost certainly out of the title race. After suffering three defeats in eight matches at the beginning of 2022, they have recovered well to win four and draw two of their next six. A 3-0 win against Vitoria Guimaraes was followed by a 2-1 win at Portimonense.
Their last league match brought a 1-1 home draw with relegation-threatened Vizela. Adel Taarabt was red-carded after eight minutes in that match. In the Champions League this season, Benfica beat Barcelona 3-0 at home and drew 0-0 in the Camp Nou. They also beat Dinamo Kiev at home and draw away, without conceding. Home and away thrashing against Bayern Munich meant they finished second in the group.
Benfica Team News
Benfica are without defender Lucas Verissimo and strikers Rodrigo Pinho and Haris Seferovic for this match due to injuries. Veteran central defender Nicolas Otamendi was missing for the last match but was seemingly just rested ahead of this tie.
Central midfielder Adel Taarabt was sent off in the last match but will start here alongside Julian Weigl. Former Tottenham defender Jan Vertonghen will partner Otamendi in a vastly experienced backline.
The Eagles have been very solid on their travels this season in Europe, holding Dinamo Kiev and Barcelona to 0-0 draws. Their best bet will be to set up defensively and not allow Ajax the space they enjoy to counter-attack.
Motivation and focus will be extremely high with no real distractions in the league.
Ajax have scored 2+ goals in each of their 7 CL matches in 2021-22
Ajax’s last 5 UCL matches have seen over 2.5 goals
Ajax’s Haller has scored 11 CL goals this season (9 away, 2 at home)
Benfica have kept 4 clean sheets in 7 CL matches this season
Benfica have kept 4 clean sheets in their last 5 away CL matches
This should be an exciting match. Benfica’s strong away defensive record faces Ajax’s sensational attacking numbers. After four goals in the first leg, backing over 3.5 goals could be a good bet. Ajax should have far too much over 90 minutes at home.
Best Bet: Over 3.5 goals at 1.86
Alternative Bet: Ajax to win and both teams to score at 2.30
Value Bet: Ajax win and Haller to score the first goal at 4.53
Goalscorer Tip: Haller to score 2 or more goals at 5.00
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