Ajax will take on Atalanta at the Johan Cruijff Arena in Amsterdam in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday, 9 December 2020.
Whereas Liverpool have already secured the top spot and are calmly waiting the Round of 16 draw, Atalanta and Ajax will go head-to-head for the second spot in Group D of the 2020-21 UEFA Champions League
Inspired by their remarkable debut last season, The Italians can make it to the Champions League last 16 for a second successive year as long as they avoid defeat in Amsterdam.
Ajax, on the other hand, have no option but to win as the four-time European Cup/Champions League winners are one point behind their opponents and a draw would be quite insufficient to extend their Champions League campaign.
The losing side would still be able to continue in the UEFA Europa League knockout phase but it’s quite certain that both sides are eager to progress in the Champions League and the Europa League consolation is not a priority.
Ajax Betting Preview
The Amsterdammers must find a way to bounce back following a disappointing week that saw them losing two important games on two different fronts. And whereas the 1-0 Champions League defeat to Liverpool at Anfield could be somehow justified, they won’t be particularly pleased with the 2-1 home defeat to Twente in the Eredivisie.
It was Ajax’s second domestic defeat of the season and even though they’re still top of the table, they could receive the missed opportunity with mixed feelings because all other possible contenders have also failed to win their games which simply means they could regret for the lost chance to increase their lead over the pack or they could also draw positives that they’ve kept their lead.
Prior to the aforementioned defeat against Twente, Erik ten Hag’s men were enjoying a six-game winning streak in the Eredivisie and they have scored an amazing 36 goals in those six games, netting five or more goals in five of them and the most impressive result was arguably the 13-0 win at VVV-Venlo on 24 October.
Ajax have lost many of their aces (Sergiño Dest, Donny van de Beek, Hakim Ziyech to name a few) over the past couple of months and that’s not really something new for the Amsterdam outfit. However, they’re once again extremely competitive on all fronts and that’s based on a well working strategy that successfully combines their well-known Youth Academy and a solid transfer business.
David Neres recovers from an ankle injury and the Brazilian could miss another game, while his fellow compatriot Antony came off the bench to replace Quincy Promes over the weekend, so Ajax’s summer signing could return to the starting side against Atalanta.
Noussair Mazraoui was unavailable for Ajax over the weekend and even though local media suggests the Dutch-born Moroccan defender could be fit to start on Wednesday, new signing Sean Klaiber is ready to deputize at right-back if necessary.
Once a Dutch Football Talent of the Year in 2014 and even winning Dutch Footballer of the Year award for 2016, Davy Klaassen returned to his boyhood club and the Dutch midfielder clearly revives his career after not particularly impressive spells with Everton and Werder Bremen, in the Premier League and the Bundesliga respectively,
Besides, midfielder Davy Klaassen has just been named the Eredivisie Player of the Month for November and was recalled to the Netherlands squad for the latest international break. This makes him one of Ajax’s standout performers and Erik ten Hag will rely on his creativity.
Experienced Serb and captain Dušan Tadić and 19-years-old Burkina Faso forward Lassina Traoré are the two most prolific players in Erik ten Hag’s selection so far in 2020-21, scoring 10 and 8 goals, respectively, across all competitions.
Atalanta Betting Preview
La Dea was able to claim a prestigious win over Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool at their fortress Anfield a fortnight ago, but failed to build on when they were held to a 1-1 home draw against Danish Champions FC Midtjylland last week.
Now, Atalanta will fly to Amsterdam after an uneventful weekend as their visit to Udinese was postponed due to bad weather and a waterlogged pitch so looking to end their three-game unbeaten run in Serie A, the Bergamese outfit will have to wait for another week.
So as a result of their inconsistency so far in 2020-21, Gian Piero Gasperini’s men are 9th in the Serie A table, yet with a game in hand, and their Champions League future is at stake.
Finishing third in the Serie A last season, level on points with fourth-placed Lazio and just five points off the Scudetto winners Juventus, Atalanta have scored an exceptional 98 goals in 38 games – the most by all sides and 22 more than the Champions themselves – but their attacking efficiency is nowhere near the same level at the moment.
This time, though, Gian Piero Gasperini’s side have scored 18 goals in their opening 9 games in Serie A, and that combined with the not particularly stable defense, is the reason why they already are 12 points behind current leaders AC Milan.
All in all, Atalanta were doing relatively well until the seventh round, when they were among the top-four sides for most of the time and even were top of the table by the end of matchweek 3. However, their poor run of form makes them slightly more unpredictable heading into this one.
Since their defeat to regional rivals Fiorentina in the Coppa Italia on 15 January, Atalanta have lost just one of their last 17 away games across all competitions (excluding their appearance in the Champions League final 8 in Lisbon) and have won 12 of them.
Goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini, centre-back Mattia Caldara as well as centre-forward Sam Lammers are all ruled out with injuries, while left-back Robin Gosens and Russian midfielder Aleksey Miranchuk both tested positive for coronavirus and remains to be seen whether there are new cases in the club or either of the quarantined pair would be available for the trip to Amsterdam.
Some of the latest reports suggest that Gosens’ test was a ‘false positive’ and he tested negative in his second swab, so the Germany international could be in the squad to face Ajax.
However, according to Italian media (La Gazzetta dello Sport), the 26-years-old left wing-back could still miss the crucial Champions League game or even more as he needs a certificate of ‘false positivity’ released by the local health authority and Atalanta must receive the certificate before their trip to the Dutch capital. If they won’t receive it, something that shouldn’t be taken for granted, Gosens will be forced to self-isolate for the next 10 days and Johan Mojica is on standby.
Gasperini named a Colombian duo of Luis Muriel and Duvan Zapata to lead Atalanta’s attack against Midtjylland, with Papu Gomez starting behind them, but he could field a different line in Amsterdam.
Featuring in back-to-back Champions League matches (against Liverpool and FC Midtjylland), Italian midfielder Matteo Pessina would hope to earn another start, but Gian Piero Gasperini will likely opt for more experience in his attacking line and Josip Ilicic should get the nod. The 32 years old Slovenian was one of the most important players for the Bergamo side over the course of the 2019-20 season but still struggles to resurrect his form, following a break due to personal reasons.
After a promising start to the new campaign, Colombian forward Duvan Zapata struggles to get into his scoring boots and is yet to deliver since he bagged a brace for the 2-2 draw in the home leg against Ajax on 27 October.
Zapata has scored five goals (3 in the CL, 2 in Serie A) in his first seven appearances of the season and will hope to end his seven-game goal drought against an opposition that actually inspired his most prolific performance so far in 2020-21.
Captain Alejandro Gómez was once again pivotal for Atalanta’s form in the opening weeks of the season and was consequently awarded the Serie A MVP of the Month award in September. However, the Argentine playmaker is not in his best shape right now but he could always influence and inspire his teammates all of a sudden, like he did when it was much needed for the remarkable 2-0 victory at Anfield just two weeks ago.
Meanwhile, Ruslan Malinovskiy’s period of isolation has now ended so the Ukrainian could be back in contention for Atalanta.
Possible Starting Lineups of Ajax and Atalanta
Ajax Amsterdam: André Onana – Nicolás Tagliafico, Daley Blind, Perr Schuurs, Noussair Mazraoui – Davy Klaassen, Ryan Gravenberch – Quincy Promes, Zakaria Labyad, Dusan Tadic – Lassina Traoré. (4-2-3-1)
Atalanta: Marco Sportiello – Cristian Romero, Rafael Tolói, Berat Djimsiti – Johan Mojica, Marten de Roon, Remo Freuler, Hans Hateboer – Papu Gómez – Josip Ilicic, Duván Zapata. (3-4-1-2)
Spooky Express Betting Prediction
Even though Ajax are favored at odds of +129 to win with BetOnline, we believe Atalanta have gained considerable experience over the past couple of years and have built the character to fight in such games so we quite fancy their chance to advance. With that said, we are backing Atalanta to eventually emerge victorious from a possibly tight encounter but a draw would also be a winning bet.
Spooky Express Free Play: Spread Atalanta pk, +½ -115 @ BetOnline for 7/10 Units