What: Champions League – Group D
Who: Ajax vs Real Madrid
When: Wednesday 7th December, 2011, at 19:45 UK time
Where: Amsterdam ArenA, Amsterdam, Holland

Building Confidence

Three points ahead of Lyon in the Group D standings, a tough test at home awaits Ajax as they play host to one of Europe’s most in-form sides, Real Madrid. While second place is all but secured for the four-time Champions League winners, a win over their Spanish opponents would build confidence before the knockout stages of the competition.

Victory over Real Madrid could serve as a stepping stone too as Ajax’s Eredivisie campaign prepares to take a serious turn with meetings with league leaders AZ Alkmaar and Feyenoord just after the winter break. The reigning Dutch champions have looked frail so far this term with only seven wins out of 15 league outings, finding themselves seven points off the championship pace.

Yet for all of Ajax’s optimism at home, meeting the current La Liga leaders remains a cause for concern as the team show no sign of stopping at the moment; Real Madrid put on a display against Dinamo Zagreb, demonstrating that they can dismantle sides even with their fringe players on the pitch.

First Ajax

Given the way of things, the minds of the Real Madrid players will naturally be focused on their biggest game of the league season yet when they meet Barcelona on Saturday. Before then however, Los Blancos will need to travel north to Holland in order to wrap up their Champions League group campaign.

The nine-time Champions League winners grabbed a vital 3-0 away win against Sporting Gijon over the weekend, in a match where Angel di Maria excelled, scoring the first and assisting the second: “We knew it would be a very difficult game, but the important thing is we won”, acknowledged Di Maria after the game.

“We are calm [concerning the match against Barcelona]. We have the Champions League before and then we’ll think of them."

With the clash proving to be meaningless, as it will not affect the standings, Di Maria, as others such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Mesut Ozil, Xabi Alonso and Iker Casillas could very well sit this one out in order to be fresh for the Clasico bout.

Recent form

Lyon 0-0 Ajax
(22/11; Champions League)
NEC Nijmegen 0-3 Ajax
(27/11; Eredivisie)
Ajax 3-1 Excelsior (03/12; Eredivisie)

Real Madrid:
Real Madrid 6-2 Dinamo Zagreb
(22/11; Champions League)
Real Madrid 4-1 Atletico Madrid
(26/11; La Liga)
Sporting Gijon 0-3 Real Madrid (03/12; La Liga)

Key absences

Ajax: Derk Boerrigter (doubt); Dmitri Bulykin (doubt); Andre Ooijer; Nicolai Boilesen; Siem de Jong

Real Madrid: Ricardo Carvalho (doubt); Alvaro Arbeloa (doubt)

Players to watch

Ajax – Gregory van der Wiel: Cristiano Ronaldo might not show up on the evening, but the right back will still have a task and a half when dealing with other Merengue players, as the likes of Marcelo or Fabio Coentrao have rarely failed to impose themselves this term. Van der Wiel is highly rated – he can show why here.

Real Madrid – Nuri Sahin: The playmaker has shown glimpses of his ability in recent games, and will be expected to be given the nod ahead of Xabi Alonso in this match. As the leader from deep inside his half, imposing his passing game will be essential should he want to make a name for himself.

Match Prediction

As Europe’s highest scoring side, Madrid are hard to stop at the moment, even away from home. A strong showing against Ajax will be a massive boost ahead of the Barcelona game, even with nothing to play for against the Dutch side. Ajax 1-3 Real Madrid.

This Ajax v Real Madrid Champions League clash is sure to have great betting value. Where is your money going? Make sure you visit OLBG for tips and to compare the current odds and betting markets available at all the important bookmakers.