What: UEFA Champions League – Group H
Who: Barcelona vs Ajax
When: Wednesday 18th September, 2013, at 19:45 UK Time
Where: Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain

New Meeting

For two clubs that share a lot in terms of philosophy, the fact that this will be the first time Barcelona take on Ajax in Champions League duty is intriguing. The Catalans will be hoping to erase their bad memories of last season’s European blue ribbon competition as they were taught a football lesson by eventual trophy winners Bayern Munich. Having reinforced their attack over the summer with the addition of Brazil star Neymar, Gerardo Martino’s men are surely one of the favourites for this year.

Barcelona scored yet another victory on the weekend, surpassing visitors Sevilla to keep a 100% record in La Liga. Next to Atletico Madrid, they are the only other team holding 12 points from four games, a factor Cristian Tello feels will greatly aid them when they meet Ajax. 

“The Champions League is really important for us and the best way to go into the game against Ajax is with a league win behind us”, explained the winger.

Barcelona will be lifted by the fact that Ajax hold a poor recent record against Spanish sides, as they have lost against Real Madrid each time the two met during the last three seasons, including a 4-1 double drubbing in the last campaign.

Not the Best Form

While Barcelona tackle this match in the highest of spirits, Ajax’s recent form suggests the Dutch giants will be facing a multitude of problems when they come face to face with the Spanish champions. Having won just three of their last six games – all at home – Holland’s title holders will have a tough game on their hands. Having just five wins out of 14 games disputed on Spanish soil, history does not favour Ajax.

It will be an emotional night for coach Frank de Boer, who returns to one of his old clubs. A 1998/99 La Liga winner with the Blaugrana, De Boer will want to achieve success by starting his Champions League campaign this year with a win. However, he realises that his side must greatly improve to earn even a draw at the Camp Nou, a feat that remains unlikely given the match’s proximity.

And Finnish defender Niklas Moisander believes that his side must show a great amount of professionalism should they want to have a good night. 

“I thought it was a bit awkward last year that before a match against Real Madrid the players were taking pictures and video clips of the Santiago Bernabeu stadium. You can't do that. We must be business-like when we get to Barcelona, do our work properly and try to achieve something. We must not show too much respect or play cautiously. If we are scared then we will definitely lose."


Recent form

Barcelona 0-0 Atletico Madrid (28/08; Super Cup)
Valencia 2-3 Barcelona (01/09; La Liga)
Barcelona 3-2 Sevilla (14/09; La Liga)

Heerenveen 3-3 Ajax (23/08; Eredivisie)
Groningen 1-1 Ajax (01/09; Eredivisie)
Ajax 2-1 PEC Zwolle (14/09; Eredivisie)

Key absences

Barcelona: Jordi Alba; Pedro; Isaac Cuenca; Ibrahim Afellay; Carles Puyol (doubt)

Ajax: Joel Veltman 

Players to watch

Barcelona – Lionel Messi: The current Ballon d’Or holder is naturally Barcelona’s greatest hope of winning a fifth Champions League. Having seen Franck Ribery earn the prize for the best footballer in Europe, Messi will have a point to prove to UEFA, starting with the game against Ajax.

Ajax – Bojan Krkic: Once touted as a future star of Spain and Barcelona’s greatest hope after Messi, Krkic’s momentum has ground to a halt, with the player deemed surplus to requirements at the Camp Nou and shipped to Roma, AC Milan and now Ajax. 

Match Prediction

Barcelona have their fans’ backing for this one, while Ajax’s recent fortunes suggest the Dutch side are not ready to meet a team of the Catalans’ magnitude. Martino will want to get his side’s continental season off to the best start possible and his players should manage to score a comfortable win. Barcelona 3-0 Ajax.

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