Roma v Ajax: Visitors will go down swinging

After successfully backing Roma to avoid defeat in Amsterdam last week, Kevin Hatchard's on the Italians' side again this week.

Roma closing in on final four

As defender Roger Ibanez thrashed in a volley that any striker would have been proud of, the Ajax players looked at each other in disbelief. Roma had been pushed onto the back foot for big parts of the game in Amsterdam, but found a way to win.

There were many heroes for the Giallorossi on the night, not least Spanish goalkeeper Pau Lopez, who saved a penalty from Dusan Tadic when Roma were already 1-0 down. Roma defended well on the night, with Ibanez particularly solid.

Roma have won every game they have played in the Europa League knockout phase this season. They beat Braga home and away and gave Shakhtar Donetsk the same treatment. They haven't been able to find the same level of consistency in Serie A, winning just three of their last eight matches. Coach Paulo Fonseca has been accused of not being able to win the big matches against elite opponents, and since the turn of the year his side has lost to Milan, Napoli and Juventus.

Roma have been boosted by the return of Henrikh Mkhitaryan from injury - the Armenian has arguably been their best player this season. Bruno Peres is suspended, but Rick Karsdorp is back from a ban. Leonardo Spinazzola and Chris Smalling aren't expected to be fit in time to feature.

Ajax stunned by first-leg loss

Last week, Ajax suffered their first defeat in any competition since early December, and they will feel it wasn't a justified one. The Infogol Expected Goals figures showed that Ajax were the more dangerous side (3.21 vs 0.71), but Dusan Tadic's penalty miss proved crucial, and young goalkeeper Kjell Scherpen made a total mess of keeping out the Lorenzo Pellegrini free-kick that made it 1-1.

Ajax are used to winning, and have built up an 11-point lead in the Eredivisie title race. However, they fell short in the Champions League, and their away form in the group stage was underwhelming. They lost 1-0 at Liverpool, and blew a 2-0 lead in a 2-2 draw at Atalanta.

Ajax have a formidable forward line, with Brazilians Antony and David Neres flanking the ever-dangerous Tadic, and Davy Klaassen driving from midfield to support them. The concern is at the other end - Daley Blind is out injured, Per Schuurs might miss the game as well, so it'll be a makeshift defensive line that looks to protect the inexperienced Scherpen.

Roma can see off Ajax threat

Roma weren't at their best in Amsterdam, but still found a way to win. At home they have been outstanding in this competition, winning all but one of their matches. They have scored at least three goals in each of their last four UEL games at the Stadio Olimpico.

I can see Ajax scoring here, but they need to score at least twice to reach the semi-finals, and I can't see them keeping a clean sheet of their own. I'll use the Sportsbook's Bet Builder to back Roma/Draw Double Chance and Both Teams To Score at 2.16.

Tadic can find redemption

If Ajax are to score here, Dusan Tadic may well be heavily involved. The Serbian has scored in six of his last 12 games, and despite his miss last week, he'll take a penalty if one is awarded. The former Southampton player is priced at 2.75. Davy Klaassen is always worth considering - he has scored in five of his last 13 games, and is constantly looking to surge forward from midfield. He is 4.33 to score at any time.

On the Roma side, Edin Dzeko started ahead of Borja Mayoral last week, but Mayoral is an excellent option if he starts. The Spanish striker has scored seven goals in the Europa League already, and is 2.4.



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