Dutch giants Ajax were one of the surprise packages of last season’s Champions League, just seconds away from reaching the competitions final. Despite their heroics last season, Ajax have to qualify for the group stages of the competition. The Dutch sides attempt to make the Champions League proper continue on Tuesday night when they Cyprus to face APOEL Nicosia in the play-off first leg.
APOEL Nicosia (Odds to win 5/1)
The Cypriot side head into this clash as major underdogs to win this game and also head through to the group stages. The home side has already had to negotiate to rounds of the Champions League to book their place in this prestigious clash.
In the third qualifying round, APOEL saw off the threat of Kazakhstani side Qarabag, recording an aggregate victory of 3-2. However, it is worth noting they lost the first leg 2-1 on home soil. They recorded a rather more comfortable 4-0 aggregate victory over Montenegrin outfit Sutjeska in the previous round though.
APOEL’s recent record in the Champions League gives them hope of pulling off a shock in this tie. The Cypriot team has recorded wins in four of their last five matches in Europe’s elite competition. However, their recent home record in the Champions League is not as encouraging, as they have won just once in six games at the Neo GSP. It seems unlikely that their poor home record will improve in this clash.
Ajax (Odds of 9/20 to win)
Ajax have a big connection and history with the European Cup down the years. In fact, the Dutch giants have won the competition on four occasions down the years. However, their last triumph was 24 years ago.
As previously mentioned, Erik ten Hag’s team reached the semi-finals of the competition last season, only to suffer a last-gasp defeat to Premier League Tottenham. It will be a massive challenge for the Dutch champions to repeat that feat this season. The sale of star centre-back Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong will no doubt hamper their hopes of European glory this season.
Unlike their hosts, Ajax entered the competition at the third qualifying round, seeing off Greek side PAOK 5-4 on aggregate in a highly-entertaining clash. It was no easy passage for Ten Hag’s side that is for sure, which is why they need to beware of complacency in this tie.
Ajax drew the first leg against PAOK in the last round, showing that they have some work to do to get anywhere near the same heights as last season. However, it is hard not to back Ten Hag’s side to win this clash, considering the home sides questionable home form in Europe.
Ajax tend to be involved in high-scoring games in Europe and this could be another one, so backing the over 3.5 goals at 6/4 could be a decent punt here. In summary, we expect Ajax to win in a high-scoring encounter in Cyprus.
Our Verdict: Back Ajax to win and over 3.5 goals at odds of 2.63/1 (all odds from Bet365)
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