Ajax v Liverpool: Reds to revel in Amsterdam

Liverpool begin their Champions League campaign with an attractive-looking trip to Ajax on Wednesday night. Mark O'Haire analyses the encounter.

Ajax v Liverpool
Wednesday October 21, 20:00
Sky Sports

Ajax warm-up with big win

Ajax warmed up for Wednesday with a 5-1 thrashing of Heerenveen at the Amsterdam Arena. The Dutch giants were three goals up before half-time, converting each of their first three on-target attempts through Dusan TadicMohammed Kudos and a Tadic penalty. A further spot-kick from returning Davy Klaassen and an Antony strike completed the rout.

Head coach Erik ten Hag had been criticised pre-match following four uninspiring Ajax efforts (W2-D1-L1) in previous Eredivisie encounters, including a surprise 1-0 defeat at Groningen before the international break. And despite the cushy scoreline, the hosts still gave Heerenveen opportunities in the capital with Andre Onana called into action in-goal.

Lassina Traore started in attack on Saturday with David Neres on the wing as ten Hag tinkered with his system. Ajax started the season in a new-look 4-3-3 formation but have since reverted back to their preferred 4-2-3-1. Quincy Promes is expected to be recalled to the starting XI with Tadic potentially utilised as a false nine in attack for the hosts.

Liverpool frustrated by derby draw

Liverpool were denied a late victory in the Merseyside derby on Saturday when VAR ruled out Jordan Henderson's stoppage-time effort. The Reds looked to have pinched the points in an action-packed fixture, only for a marginal offside to scupper Jurgen Klopp's side at the death. Sadio Mane and Mohammed Salah were been on-target during the 2-2 draw.

However, the bigger story from the Liverpool camp surrounded the season-ending injury to Virgil van Dijk. The Netherlands international faces surgery after suffering anterior cruciate knee ligament damage during the derby; the key centre-half has missed just one Premier League match since joining the club and his absence is a major blow for the Reds.

Fabinho, Joel Matip and Joe Gomez are in contention to start in the heart of defence this midweek, whilst Thiago Alcantara could also be missing in midfield following the reckless red card challenge from Richarlison on an otherwise excellent full debut against Everton. Elsewhere, Klopp isn't expected to rest or rotate his first-choice front-three in Amsterdam.

Reds firm and fair favourites

Ajax and Liverpool are meeting for the first time since the 1966/67 European Cup, where the Dutch side eliminated the Reds with a 7-3 aggregate victory in the Last 16. Since losing 1-5 against the Eredivisie champions in December 1966, Liverpool have gone unbeaten in their following 13 games against Dutch opponents in European competition (W8-D5-L0).

Ajax 5.00 have only won one of their previous six games against English opponents in European competition (W1-D2-L3), and come into this contest having taken top honours once in seven home Champions League outings (W1-D2-L4). The Dutch side aren't the same side of yesteryear following a raft of departures since their 2018/19 continental exploits.

Liverpool 1.76 were frustrated by Saturday's fixture; the Reds generated 2.85 xG and won the shot count 22-11. It was a strong response to the 7-2 embarrassment at Aston Villa before the international break, and should Jurgen Klopp's charges reach the same standards again on Wednesday, the Merseysiders should be well capable of clinching victory here.

Market expects a goal-glut

The market is anticipating a shootout at the Amsterdam Arena with Over 2.5 Goals trading at just 1.49. Even combining Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score gives us a price shorter than 1.70 via the Same Game Multi function on Betfair Sportsbook.

Liverpool have shipped two goals or more in three of their first five Premier League outings with four of those matches featuring Over 3.5 Goals. Only one side (Chelsea who were down to 10 men before half-time) has failed to score in that same sample, suggesting Ajax could well have some joy against a Virgil van Dijk-less Reds defence this midweek.

But there's little to appeal in the goals prices nor lines and so a straight play on the away day success is preferred.

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