Manuel Veth –
Real Madrid vs Ajax – Tuesday, March 5, 20:00GMT/21:00CET – Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, Madrid, Spain
After a week to forget for Real Madrid, the Champions League remains the only hope for Los Blancos to salvage their season. Real Madrid were eliminated by rivals Barcelona from the Spanish cup and then also lost the El Clasico this weekend, which buried Real’s La Liga hopes.
Against Ajax Real Madrid hold a 2-1 lead and simply need a draw to advance at home. Considering that Real have struggled to score goals this season that is good news. Bad news, however, is that Real will be without superstar defender Sergio Ramos.
The Spanish national team defender seemed sure enough about Real advancing and collected a third yellow card in this competition on purpose in the return fixture. His plan was to sit out the game on Tuesday and then return to the quarterfinals. But UEFA have now extended his ban to two games for provoking the yellow card.
Furthermore, whether his plan would have worked is questionable. Ajax may have lost the first leg but were at times dominant against a Real side that did include Ramos. “Perhaps Ramos will regret that yellow card,” Ajax star Frenkie de Jong told the media. “Of course, Real are the favourites, but we have not given up yet,” de Jong added.
Ajax were given the weekend off in order to prepare for this match, which caused some controversy in the Netherlands. On Wednesday Ajax faced Feyenoord in the Dutch Cup where they beat rivals Feyenoord 3-0. “If we play against Real like we did in the Cup against Feyenoord then we have a chance,” head coach Erik ten Hag said after the game.
The chance is certainly there but even without Sergio Ramos remains a strong opponent at the Bernabéu. Hence, Real Madrid will be favourites to get the result they need to advance to the next round.
Real Madrid vs Ajax – Players to look out for:
Vinícius Junior #28 – Real Madrid
Slowly but surely super talent Vinícius Junior is arriving at the Bernabeu. The 18-year-old talented winger was signed for €61 million from Flamengo last summer and at first, mostly utilised in Real’s second side Segunda Division B (third division) where he scored four goals in five games. Under Solari, he has now seen more regular first-team minutes and has featured in the last eight games in a row for Real Madrid’s first team (one goal).
Dušan Tadić #10 – Ajax Amsterdam
Dušan Tadić was a key player for Ajax against Bayern München. Erik ten Hag had deligated the Serbian winger to the middle of the park as part of a three-man attack, sacrificing a pure striker in the form of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. With three dynamic forwards, Ajax caused significant problems to Bayern’s backline, with Tadić scoring twice, and ten Hag hopes to repeat the trick against Real Madrid with Tadić once again leading the frontline.
Real Madrid vs Ajax – Match Stats
- Ajax must overcome the weight of recent history as they take on holders Real Madrid bidding to reach the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals for the first time in 16 years.
- The teams have met 12 times in UEFA competition – all in the European Cup – Real Madrid winning seven and Ajax four with only one draw, 1-1 in the first encounter in Amsterdam in the 1967/68 European Cup first round first leg. Madrid won the second leg 2-1 in Spain to progress.
- Madrid have dominated recent contests between the sides, beating Ajax home and away in the group stage in 2010/11, 2011/12 and 2012/13. Their last trip to Amsterdam brought a 4-1 success in October 2012 – Madrid won by the same scoreline at the Santiago Bernabéu two months later – making it 11 goals in their last three visits to Ajax.
- Real Madrid have continued their record of appearing in the UEFA Champions League round of 16 every year since its introduction in 2003/04 – and have not lost a tie at this juncture in nine years.
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Real Madrid vs Ajax – 2-0
Real Madrid vs Ajax – Lineups
Courtois – Marcelo, Nacho, Varane, Carvajal – Modrić, Casemiro, Kroos – Vinícius Junior, Benzema, Bale
Head Coach: Santiago Solari
Onana – Tagliafico, Blind, de Ligt, Kristensen – Schöne, van de Beek, F. de Jong – Neres, Tadić, Ziyech
Head Coach: Erik ten Hag
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others contributes to Forbes.com and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.