One of the French standout old-school club OGC Nice have reintroduced themselves over the course of past season with notable results at the domestic scene, but now stand in front of a tough challenge en route to the international stage with Dutch Ajax prepared to challenge their Champions League credentials.
Tough test for Nice
The third-placed team of the French Ligue 1 is coming off from a remarkable season. Having finished the domestic campaign in front of Lyon and Marseille, Nice earned the right to fight for their place within Europe’s elite competition. The French side warmed up for the new season with a string of friendly matches, which provided a deeper insight into what can be expected from Lucien Favre’s side next term. Rejuvenated Mario Balotelli has signed a new deal and will once again lead the line in attack whereas the club has done well to fend off heavy interest for other key men while at the same time bolstering their ranks with the likes of Jean-Victor Makengo, Adrien Tameze and French international Christophe Jallet. If their string of friendly wins is anything to go by, Nice should be up to the task against Dutch giants Ajax, who still boast richer international experience and reputation.
Favre will expect his new signing Jallet to hit the ground running and is likely to be included in the starting line-up. The French side, however, will be without defender Dalbert Henrique who is sidelined with injury.
Youth and Excitement
The Dutch giants from Amsterdam are going through a sort of revolution with the club now being guided forward by a string of young and exciting footballers who are expected to become both Ajax and Netherlands’ future. Having narrowly missed on the domestic trophy last season, the Eredivisie heavyweights have been forced to fight their way through to the group stage of the Champions League with the qualifiers. Those will, in a way, be a perfect opportunity to test the strength of this young team which has gone through a s couple of notable changes during summer. With Davy Klassen and Jairo Riedewald both off to the Premier League and Kevin Tete as another notable departure, it will be interesting if Ajax will manage to deal without them. Real Madrid are pushing hard for another first-team star Kasper Dolberg and Ajax will be under great pressure until the end of the summer transfer window. The experienced striker Klass Jan Huntelaar is hardly enough of a squad boost, but the Dutchman are sure to work on a couple of more signings if they manage to see off the French rivals.
The Nouri tragedy got the whole football world crying, but Ajax will have a couple of more absentees as Daley Sinkgraven and Mitchell Dijks are yet to recover from their injuries.
Nice are heading into the Ajax clash in fine form having won almost all of their friendly tests, which can’t be said for the Dutch giants who have largely underperformed in the preseason. The French side have given a slight advantage in the first leg and we suggest it be used.
Top pick: Nice 2.40 (7/5) @WilliamHill
Alternative pick 1: HT/FT Nice 4.00 (3/1) @Ladbrokes
Alternative pick 2: Both teams to score – No 2.05 (21/20) @BetVictor