AFC Ajax vs Olympique Lyonnais – Thursday 17:45BST/18:45CEST – Amsterdam ArenA Amsterdam.
The only former winners left in the competition, Ajax will look to maintain a six-game winning streak at home in the Europa League as they host high-scoring Lyon.
Ajax come into this fixture off the back of a narrow defeat in the Eredivisie on Matchday 32 to rivals PSV Eindhoven. Their 1:0 loss away from home came courtesy of a free kick by Eindhoven’s Jürgen Locadia, not the best of warm ups but de Godenzonen showed enough fight and determination in the last round of this completion, versus Schalke 04, for Lyon to know they hold a genuine, credible threat. An aggregate 4:2 victory in the quarter-final, the score doesn’t tell the full story of two captivating games of football against their German opponents, was enough to see them into this semi-final. Many will still be in shock how Schalke escaped with just a 2:0 deficit in the first leg of their quarterfinal matchup. Ajax controlled the entire second half and only for a heroic display by Schalke goalkeeper, Ralf Fährmann, prevented a potential cricket score inside the Amsterdam ArenA. It was to prove a nervous second leg for the Dutch side, eventually overcoming Schalke in extra time. A late double broke German hearts and with it sent Ajax into a Europa League semi-final for the first time.
In contrast to their Dutch hosts, Olympique Lyonnais enter this semi-final encounter in a vain of form which may cause them a sleepless night or two. A thrilling quarter-final against Turkish side Besiktas has been balanced with a missed opportunity to push for one of Ligue 1’s automatic Champions League qualification places. Domestic form aside it is in the Europa League where Les Gones have had their biggest successes this season. Entering the competition via their Champions’ League group placing, Lyon have only lost one of their last six outings. An 11:2 aggregate score versus another Dutch side, AZ Alkmaar, the pick of the bunch. Should this fixture last the entire distance of 210 minutes, and require the dreaded penalty shootout, it is Lyon who have the experience of the pressure this situation brings. The French side victorious in a heart-stopping penalty shootout in the quarter-final against Besiktas, 16 penalties were taken before defensive midfielder, Maxime Gonalons, scored the all-important spot kick to take The Kids through 6:7. Having met four times previously in UEFA competitions, Lyon will be hoping to make it fifth time lucky against Ajax, the French side have never beaten their Dutch hosts, losing twice and drawing twice—something that will have to be overcome should they wish to make the final in Stockholm.
Ajax vs Olympique Lyon – Players to look out for:
Kasper Dolberg #25 – Ajax Amsterdam
The 19-year-old Dutch centre-forward has been a revelation this season for Ajax since he made his full-time move from their Academy. With 14 goals and six assists in 26 Eredivisie games, he averages a goal every 146 minutes in the Dutch league. He also has five European goals to his name this season, four coming in the Europa League and one in the Champions League qualifying stage against FC Rostov. A baby-faced assassin in the full sense of the term, his mature finishing ability defies his youthful appearance.
Alexandre Lacazette #10 – Olympique Lyonnais
Alexandre Lacazette has been dubbed the best striker in this year’s competition. With Lyon sweating over a late notice fitness test the French side will have a nervous wait. Should he be passed, fit to play then undoubtedly the French international will be the biggest goal threat on the pitch Wednesday evening. With 31 goals in 40 appearances across six competitions, this season his ability to find the net is crucial to Lyon’s style of play. In the Europa League this season he has four goals from 13 shots, seven on target. Ajax will need to be wary of this skilful attacker as he can hold up play or attack with speed. When it comes to finishing he can be deadly from both inside and outside the box, an all-around goal threat.
Ajax vs Olympique Lyon – Match Stats
- The sides have met four times in UEFA competition: two Ajax wins and two goalless draws.
- Ajax’s overall record in 22 matches against French sides is W10 D5 L7.
- Lyon’s record in 12 encounters with Dutch clubs is W6 D4 L2.
- Ajax last got to a UEFA semi-final in the 1996-97 Champions League, succumbing to Juventus.
- Lyon’s last semi-final was in the 2009-10 UEFA Champions League, where they were eliminated by Bayern München
Prediction: Ajax vs Olympique Lyon – 3:1
Onana; Tete, Sanchez, de Ligt, Riedewald; Ziyech, Schone, Klaassen; Traore, Dolberg, Younes
Coach: Peter Bosz
Lopes; Jallet, N’Koulou, Diakhaby, Morel; Gonalons; Valbuena Tousart, Darder, Cornet; Lacazette
Coach: Bruno Génésio