Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Ajax Amsterdam vs PAOK Thessaloniki Champions League Match Preview And Prediction - July 27, 2016

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Ajax are historical regulars among Europe’s elite clubs, but they have undoubtedly declined since their glory days. They are still regulars in the group stages of the Champions League though, with them making it that far in five of their last six seasons. They haven’t made it past the groups during this period though, with their most successful outing being a round of 16 appearance in the Europa League in 2014/15.

Their 2nd place finish in the Eredivisie last season saw them fail to dislodge PSV at the top again, although there was just a two point gap between them at the end of the season. With the Eredivisie season kicking off the weekend after this tie is finished, Ajax will be keen to get their competitive season off to a good start as they look to reclaim the Dutch title.

Ajax’ pre-season form has been rather patchy though. They have won two, drawn two, and lost one of their friendlies, although they haven’t lost a competitive match since an away defeat to Utrecht in December 2015. At home their unbeaten streak stretched back to October as well, so they are certainly hard to defeat.

PAOK eventually finished 2nd in their domestic league as well. Olympiakos stormed the regular season as they dropped just five points in 30 matches, winning the title by a huge 30 point margin over 2nd placed Panathinaikos. But during the playoff round PAOK came back from a disappointing regular season to top the table and claim a runners up medal and a Champions League qualification position.

This is the first time they have qualified for the Champions LEague since the 2013/14 season, but they have never made it as far as the group stages in this competition. They have made it to the Europa League group stages in five of their last six seasons though, making it to the knockout stages three times as well.

One of Ajax’ major issues last season was playing out too many draws, and I think that could be an issue on Tuesday too. PAOK are a good side in good form at the moment, and I think they could cause them some problems at the Amsterdam ArenA. They have managed draws in their last three away days in the Champions League, including 1-1 results against both Ajax and Schalke. Ajax, meanwhile, and drawn five of their last 15 games in all competitions at home.

This makes odds of 13/5 for a Draw on Tuesday look very good value for money, and that’s what I’m going for for my main prediction alongside a 1-1 correct score prediction at 6/1.

Ajax and PAOK met at this stage in the Champions League in 2010, with Ajax winning the tie on away goals after two draws were played out.

PAOK have drawn 75% of their away games in the Champions League.

Attacking midfielder Davy Klaassen is out with a shoulder injury, and they will have to do without winger Viktor Fischer after his transfer to Middlesbrough.

PAOK have no injury concerns, but they have lost left winger Robert Mak to Zenit this summer.

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