What: UEFA Champions League – Group H
Who: Ajax vs Barcelona
When: Tuesday 26th November, 2013, at 19:45 UK Time
Where: Amsterdam Arena, Amsterdam, Holland

Prospect of Elimination

Having fallen to a hard defeat when the two teams last met on 18th September, Ajax will want to make amends with their fans and hope that they can forget the 4-0 drubbing they endured at the hands of Barcelona. With just two games to go in the group stage, the reigning Dutch champions will have to play their cards in the right way in order to avoid a premature departure from Europe’s blue ribbon club competition.

The home side will face a Barcelona team that will be depleted of some their key players. However, that same side managed to win their last game 4-0 and have shown no signs of slowing down despite the absence of leader Lionel Messi.

Frank de Boer’s men will have to win in order to avoid a potential exit from the competition, as failure to capture all three points against Barcelona, coupled with an AC Milan win against Celtic would mean that the Amsterdammers would have to bid farewell to the competition. Given that they have endured nine straight defeats against Spanish opposition, they will have a hard task in hand.

On the Brink of Qualification

So far, so good for Barcelona. As Messi was recently ruled out for two months due to injury and with the likes of Victor Valdes and Daniel Alves already now sidelined, eyes were firmly centered at the Camp Nou in order to see what reaction the Spanish champions would display amidst a sea of absences. 

Luckily for Gerardo Martino and his men, they easily negotiated through Granada, and now turn their attention to Ajax, where a single point against their rivals would suffice to grant them qualification to the next round.

The Blaugrana fielded Neymar against Granada in Messi’s place, and the forward did not disappoint, establishing a firm understanding with Andres Iniesta as well as having an assist to his name. Martino will be tempted to deploy his fellow South American in the centre of his attacking trident, supported by Iniesta and Pedro Rodriguez on the flanks, or could revert him back to his original position on the left in order to accommodate Cesc Fabregas as the head striker.


Recent form

Ajax 1-0 Celtic (06/11; Champions League)
Nijmegen 0-3 Ajax (10/11; Eredivisie)
Ajax 3-0 Heracles (23/11; Eredivisie)

Barcelona 3-1 AC Milan (06/11; Champions League)
Real Betis 1-4 Barcelona (10/11; La Liga)
Barcelona 4-0 Granada (23/11; La Liga)

Key absences

Ajax: Bojan Krkic; Siem de Jong; Kolbeinn Sigthorsson

Barcelona: Daniel Alves; Lionel Messi; Victor Valdes; Cristian Tello; Jonathan dos Santos; Jordi Alba; Adriano; Ibrahim Afellay; Alexis Sanchez (suspended)

Players to watch

Ajax – Christian Poulsen: The Danish midfielder knows all about Barcelona after his time playing with Sevilla. He is past his best now, but his presence in the middle of the park will be important as he hopes to disrupt Barcelona’s attack.

Barcelona – Andres Iniesta: Iniesta’s importance to the side appears to be hindered with the arrival of Neymar. The 2010 World Cup winner slotted back into midfield this season in order to accommodate the Brazilian – his best position – but he might move up as Alexis Sanchez misses this clash.

Match Prediction

A sea separates the two teams at the moment. Barcelona appear very prepared to win this match against their hosts, and will likely dump De Boer’s team out of the competition with an important away win. Ajax 1-2 Barcelona.

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