Chelsea will aim to maintain a strong run of form when they travel to the Netherlands to take on Ajax in the third match of their Champions League group at the Johan Cruyff Arena in Amsterdam on Wednesday (5.55pm, live on BT Sport).
Chelsea come into the fixture on the back of five consecutive victories in all competitions, including a 1-0 win at home to Newcastle in the Premier League on Saturday. They created by far the better opportunities but still had to wait until the 73rd minute for Marcos Alonso’s decisive goal.
It was a result that, at least temporarily, moved Chelsea into the top four. Given that their underlying numbers have been strong to date – closer to leaders Liverpool and Manchester City than to the other teams seeking to compete for a top-four finish – they could soon establish themselves in that upper table grouping.
There were a fair number of doubts swirling around Chelsea prior to the start of the campaign. Frank Lampard had been promoted above achievement after just a single season with Derby in the Championship. Eden Hazard, the longstanding fulcrum of their attack, had departed and a transfer ban required a number of younger players to immediately step up and perform.
So far, at least, everything has fallen nicely into place. Chelsea are playing open, attacking football that after a patchy opening is now starting to yield results. Tammy Abraham has made good on the promise he showed in loan spells elsewhere, scoring nine times in 11 appearances in league and Champions League action. Fikayo Tomori and Mason Mount, both of whom played on loan at Derby under Lampard last season, have slotted in well.
That isn’t to say there won’t be testing times to come over the course of the season, especially in the second half of the campaign as the depth of the squad is tested by participation in multiple competitions, but the early signs are certainly positive.
Wednesday’s match is the first of a double header that could go a long way towards deciding Chelsea’s continued participation in the Champions League. Ajax currently lead the group with six points, ahead of Chelsea and Valencia on three apiece, and Lille on zero. If Chelsea were to lose both of their encounters with Ajax, and Valencia could win both of theirs against Lille, it would leave Lampard’s side with a big deficit to make up thereafter.
Ajax will certainly not be easy opponents. They made it all the way through to the final four of last year’s competition, seeing off Real Madrid and Juventus along the way, and were only denied a place in the final by a late, late strike from Tottenham Hotspur in the second leg of their semi-final. After making it through the qualifying rounds this time around, they have defeated both Valencia and Lille by the same 3-0 scoreline in their group matches.
The big-money summer departures of Frenkie de Jong and Matias de Ligt (in addition to that of the tidy veteran Lasse Schone) weakened Ajax in terms of individual talent in deeper areas of the pitch. They were able to hold onto their key attacking contributors in Dusan Tadic, Hakim Ziyech and David Neres. Their signings, including young Mexico midfielder Edson Alvarez, also seems to have settled in well.
So while Ajax might not quite reach the heights of last season, they still have a squad very much capable of defending their Dutch league title and putting together a good run in the Champions League. They are so far undefeated through 16 matches in all competitions and like Chelsea, have won five on the bounce in the build up to this fixture. On Saturday, they recorded a 2-1 win over RKC Waalwijk, with Tadic and Quincy Promes getting the goals.
Our Preview’s Ajax vs Chelsea Betting Tips Verdict
Wednesday’s match is likely to be an exciting and competitive encounter between two teams who like to attack, but home advantage might just be enough to tip things in Ajax’s favour.
- Back Ajax to win @ best odds of 13/10 with Betfair.
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