On Wednesday night, Ajax host APOEL Nicosia in the Champions League play-offs second leg. The first leg of the tie finished goalless in Cyprus, so the tie is still very much in the balance.
Ajax (Odds of 2/9 to record a victory)
Many expected last season’s semi-finalists Ajax to cruise into the group stages. However, the Cypriot team proved to be a tough nut to crack on home soil. The Dutch side will expect to complete the job at the Johan Cruyff Arena on Wednesday night.
The draw in the first leg means that the Eredivisie champions have won just once in their last four matches in Europe’s elite competition. Despite that relatively unconvincing run of form, Erik ten Hag’s sides suffered just one defeat in their last eight matches in the Champions League.
Their recent European games have been high scoring, with both teams scoring more than two goals in three of their last four outings.
Surprisingly, the hosts have a relatively poor home record at the Johan Cruyff Arena in the Champions League, winning just once in five home matches. A 3-2 win over Greek side POAK ended a four-game winless run on home soil in the competition for the Dutch giants. Both teams have also scored in Ajax’s last five home matches in Europe.
APOEL (Odds of 10/1 to record a victory)
The visitors from Cyprus have a respectable recent record in the Champions League, winning four of their last six games in Europe’s elite competition. Their recent matches in the competition have been tight, though, with under 2.5 goals scored in four of their last six outings.
The Cypriot team squeezed past Qarabag 3-2 on aggregate in the last round after suffering a 2-1 defeat in the first leg of the tie. Ajax are a completely different proposition completely.
Ajax’s recent poor record in the competition at home will encourage the visitors. However, it would be a massive shock if APOEL made it past the Dutch champions into the group stages of the competition.
The visitors have a mixed recent away record in the Champions League. They have won their last two away games in Europe’s elite competition, having failed to win in their previous matches on their travels.
Their recent away matches in the Champions League have been relatively low-scoring, with under 2.5 goals scored in seven of their last ten matches on their travels in the competition. Any score draw would put the visitors through to the group stages.
The obvious prediction would be an Ajax win to see them through to the next round, which is the most likely outcome. However, as their opponents proved in the first leg, they are not easy to break down.
Ajax’s recent record on home soil in the Champions League may just also add to the home teams doubt. Expect the Dutch side to gain the win, with the under 2.5 goals looking like a decent outside punt at odds of 15/8.
Verdict: Back a home win at odds of 2/9 and/or under 2.5 goals at odds of 15/8 (all odds from Bet365).
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