It is very likely that even Spartak Moscow players felt embarrassed by the manner of their 1:0 victory in Amsterdam as they were completely outclassed by very good Ajax side and were extremely lucky not to have lost the game by a big margin. Nevertheless, Spartak are now in the driving seat before the return leg at Luzhniki.
Spartak clearly out of form
Having made it to the Europa League knockout stages by finishing third in their Champions League group, Spartak entered the Basel clash completely out of form and still in their pre-season training. However, Valery Karpin’s side managed to make it to the next round and earn a tie with Ajax, with the first game showing that Spartak are still far from the desired form. The Russians did win the game at Amsterdam ArenA, but were completely outplayed by in-form Ajax and they have every reason to fear the return leg at Luzhniki. Spartak continued the poor run of form by losing 4:0 to poor Rostov on Monday, so they will have to show a massive improvement if they are to stop Ajax from scoring a hatful of goals. The hosts are likely to adopt a counterattacking style, with players like Aiden McGeady and Wellington very dangerous on the break, especially with Alex supplying the killer passes.
Nicolas Pareja continues to miss out, but Makeev, Rojo, Rafael and McGeady return after being rested against Rostov.
Defensive crisis for Ajax
Ajax players are probably still wondering how they failed to win the first leg against Spartak, but they will have another chance to make things right. Ronald De Boer’s side have been playing with a lot of confidence lately, as witnessed by the convincing victories over RKC, AZ and Willem II, and they clearly enter this game in high spirits. The attacking trio of Ebecilio, Sulejmani and Eriksen is working like a charm at the moment and with Siem De Jong chipping in with goals from midfield on regular basis, it is little wonder Ajax are on fire at the moment. The attacking style of play usually sees Ajax leave a lot of space behind, but nobody at the club is worried by the occasional conceded goals as long as the team keep winning. The visitors could have problems at the back as first choice keeper Maarten Stekelenburg has broken his finger and will miss next few weeks of action, while his deputy Keneth Vermeer is not yet ready to return.
In the absence of Stekelenburg and Vermeer, veteran Verhoeven will start between the sticks, while Mounir El Hamdaoui is suspended.
Considering the circumstances, Ajax look closer to winning this game, but just to be safe our advice is to bet on over 2.5 goals. The visitors have got to attack from the off, while Spartak can be very dangerous on the break, so we can easily see goals galore at Luzhniki.
Our prediction: Over 2.5 goals
Odds: 2.00 (1/1)