Dutch giants appear to be sitting in the driving seat with an away goal ahead of the Champions League third qualifying round second leg against Nice, but the French hot-shots should not be underestimated.
Ajax looking to edge closer to Champions League group stage
Dutch giants will have been disappointed with the first-leg 1-1 result given the fact they were in control for the good part of the match in Nice. Despite conceding an early goal through Mario Balotelli, Ajax managed to get back in the game after poor defending allowed Donny van de Beek to level the score by slotting the ball into an open goal from within the box. Despite a couple of missed chance to win in France, Ajax stay on course to get one step closer to their ultimate goal, after missing out on a chance to grab the automatic Champions League place last season. The Dutch giants narrowly lost the title race in the Netherlands, whereas a lost Europa League final cost them a Champions League berth as well. Coach Marcel Keizer will hope to make an impression in his European home debut as he looks to improve the sloppiness of his side at the back. The return match will once again have Abdelhak Nouri at the centre of attention as Ajax will try to win for their teammate who collapsed on the field during a friendly match in Austria during preseason and was left with permanent brain damage.
Keizer is expected to go with the same squad that ran out on the pitch in Nice. Donny van de Beek will continue to deputize for transferred captain Davy Klassen, whereas Justin Kluivert has stepped in to replace Bertrand Traore. Kasper Dolberg will be the one to watch after a slightly silent display in the first match.
Nice travel to Netherlands without Balotelli
The Italian forward Mario Balotelli will not be able to help his teammates in the return leg against Ajax, due to a hamstring injury he suffered in the first game. The 26-year-old forward scored the only goal for Nice in a 1-1 stalemate which offers slim hope for Lucien Favre’s men. Nice are coming off from a remarkable season in the top tier of French football. Back on the football map as one of Europe’s oldest and most iconic clubs, Nice are playing for prestige and reputation as they look to find their place in the elite. Favre has got a talented and quite exciting squad at his disposal and Ajax will have to be careful despite the away goal from the first game. The lack of experience could turn out to be the only issue ahead of the Ajax fixture, but the French side will be looking to overcome it with individual quality. With Mario Balotelli out of the picture, Jean Michael Seri who continues to be one of the hottest transfer topic. Europe’s top clubs are lining up for the Nice talent who is expected to assume a leading role in Amsterdam.
Mario Balotelli will be replaced by striker Ignatus Kpene Ganago who found his name of the squad list instead of the former Liverpool striker. Lucien Favre will have no other selection issues.
Nice will be looking to pull a surprise against Ajax, but that will be easier said than done in Amsterdam where Dutch giants have gone unbeaten throughout the 2016/17 season. Nice are coming to Netherlands without influential striker who is making a huge difference on the pitch and that could turn out to be a problem for the visitors.
Top pick: Ajax 1.75 (3/4) @SportingBet
Alternative pick 1: Ajax/Ajax 2.80 (9/5) @BetVictor
Alternative pick 2: Ajax to win both halves 4.60 (18/5) @Unibet