MX23RW : Wednesday, September 18 17:33:46| >> :600:244187:244187:
Sep 17, 2019 at 8pm UK at ​Amsterdam Arena
Attendance: 51,441
Promes (18'), Alvarez (50'), Tagliafico (63')
FT(HT: 1-0)

Preview: Ajax vs. Lille - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Tuesday's Champions League Group H clash between Ajax and Lille, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Last season's Champions League semi-finalists Ajax begin their quest to repeat and surpass those heroics when they host Lille in their opening Group H outing on Tuesday night.

The Dutch outfit were forced to come through qualifying stages to reach the competition proper despite their performances in 2018-19, whereas Lille's second-placed finish in Ligue 1 was enough to earn them a first Champions League campaign for seven years.

Match preview

Ajax boss Erik ten Hag pictured in March 2019© Reuters

Liverpool may have lifted the trophy in May and Tottenham Hotspur may have gone one better than Ajax in reaching the final, but for many the Dutch outfit were the team of last season's Champions League.

Rolling back the years to their previous glory days in this competition, Ajax claimed the scalps of Real Madrid and Juventus in swashbuckling style en route to the semi-finals, where they were dramatically bested by eventual runners-up Spurs.

The heartbreaking manner of the defeat does not appear to have caused any hangover going into the new season, though, and nor has the exits of key players such as Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong.

Erik ten Hag's side are unbeaten in 10 matches across all competitions since the beginning of the campaign, quickly rising back to the top of the Eredivisie table after claiming their first title since 2014 last term.

Indeed, even without their memorable surge to the Champions League semi-finals it would have been a standout season for Ajax as they also won the KNVB Beker to secure their first double since 2002.

Among their matches already this season have been aggregate victories over PAOK and APOEL in Champions League qualifying, although having to go the long route certainly will not faze them having done the same in 2018-19.

Ajax were the first side in European Cup history to make it all the way from the second qualifying round to the semi-finals, losing just two of 18 European outings throughout the campaign.

Lille coach Christophe Galtier before the match in August 2019© Reuters

A trip to the Johan Cruyff ArenA is a daunting way for Lille to make their Champions League return, then, having not featured in the competition proper since 2012-13.

It is certainly a step up from their last European foray - defeat to Gabala of Azerbaijan in the third qualifying round of the 2016-17 Europa League - and they too have had to cope with the loss of a star player in Nicolas Pepe.

Christophe Galtier's side have alternated between wins and defeats in their opening five Ligue 1 games this term to sit fifth in the table, although they do come into this match off the back of a victory over Angers on Friday night.

Both of their away games so far have ended in defeat without Lille scoring, though, and they are five games without an away win in European football stretching back to 2014.

Ajax form: WWDWWW

Lille form: WLWLW

Team News

Ajax's Hakim Ziyech celebrates scoring his side's second goal against Tottenham Hotspur with Dusan Tadic on May 8, 2019© Reuters

Ajax may have lost some star power over the summer, but there are key members of last season's squad still firing on all cylinders - not least Dusan Tadic.

The former Southampton man has five goals in five league games so far this term, while in all competitions he already boasts eight goals and five assists.

Hakim Ziyech has four goals in five league games to his name too, while Nicolas Tagliafico helped himself to a brace from left-back at the weekend.

Donny van de Beek is a notable absentee for the home side, though, having not featured since Ajax secured their place in the group stages against APOEL.

Noussair Mazraoui picked up a knee injury on international duty which will rule him out of this match, but Ten Hag is expected to welcome back David Neres after resting him at the weekend.

Lille, meanwhile, are without new signing Timothy Weah due to injury, while Xeka also remains sidelined.

Loic Remy should be available after being named on the bench at the weekend following injury, although he is unlikely to lead the line given the form of Victor Osimhen.

The 20-year-old Nigerian has made a flying start to life at the club, scoring five goals in his first five Ligue 1 games to jointly top the scoring charts at this early stage of the season.

Another one to watch is 21-year-old Jonathan Ikone, who scored just eight minutes into his debut for France during the international break.

Ajax possible starting lineup:
Onana; Veltman, Schuurs, Blind, Tagliafico; Alvarez, Promes, Martinez; Ziyech, Tadic, Neres

Lille possible starting lineup:
Maignan; Pied, Fonte, Djalo, Bradaric; Andre, Soumare; Ikone, Yazici, Bamba; Osimhen

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We say: Ajax 2-0 Lille

Both sides have some exciting attacking talent on display and will know that this fixture could prove crucial with Chelsea and Valencia providing the other competition in the group. Ajax came alive during the Champions League last season and have started the new one well too, so we are backing them to come away with the win.

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Who will win Tuesday's Champions League clash between Ajax and Lille?

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Ajax's Hakim Ziyech celebrates scoring his side's first goal against Real Madrid in February 2019
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