Tuesday April 9 2019
Ajax threats for Juventus

Juventus face Ajax in the Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday, so Vilizar Yakimov takes a look at the most dangerous Dutch players.

It’s been a while since Juventus and Ajax faced each other in the latter stages of an European competition. In fact there have been just four games between the Old Lady and the Dutch club this century, as the two sides met twice in the Europa League in 2010 and had two more meetings in the Champions League group stage in 2004.

However, neither of those games came even close in terms of quality and prestige compared to their clashes in the mid-90s. Back then both the Bianconeri and Ajax were amongst Europe’s finest teams and undoubtedly cemented their place as two of the greatest clubs on the continent. The games between the two sides will always remain an all-time classics and it’s easy to see why.

Back in the day Ajax could count on some of the finest players of the generation, as Clarence Seedorf, Frank Rijkaard, Jari Litmanen, Edgar Davids, Patrick Kluivert, Edwin van der Sar,  Marc Overmars, Danny Blind, Nwankwo Kanu and the De Boer brothers among many others were all part of Louis Van Gaal’s dream team.

Despite the fact Ajax no longer possess the world beaters they had almost three decades ago, the Eredivisie leaders have an interesting mix of veterans and some of Europe’s finest young players in their ranks. With the upcoming Champions League quarter-final clash between them promising to be a refreshing and at the same time a nostalgic encounter, it’s worth taking a closer look at Ajax’s best players.

Just like in the 90s, the attack poses the biggest threat, so Juventus should be extremely wary of Ajax’s attacking trident of David Neres, Dusan Tadic and Hakim Ziyech. The trio has scored a remarkable 60 goals in all competitions between them and possess a never-ending energy, which perfectly compliments the high-pressing game that Erik ten Hag has established.

Despite the lack of a notable physical presence, the trio seem to compliment each other perfectly, as Tadic’s intelligence and ability to play with both feet allows him to move between the lines and quickly find his teammates into dangerous positions. Then the tenacity and skill of Neres and Ziyech are usually able to either finish off the move or pass it back to the Serbian.

Tadic is arguably the most important piece in Erik ten Hag’s attacking puzzle, as at 30 years of age the former-Southampton forward has enough experience, but at the same time is still mobile enough. This allows him to drift out of position, something that he does very often, and open spaces for the fast Ajax wingers. Tadic’s preferred zone is the channel between the opposition’s right centre-back and full back, so Joao Cancelo who is expected to start for Juventus should avoid leaving spaces between himself and Leonardo Bonucci.

There’s a certain similarity between the Serbia international and Jari Litmanen, as the Finnish legend was equally efficient with both feet and similarly to Tadic was able to open up spaces thanks to his exceptional vision and technique back in the 90s. However, there’s been a certain added edge to Tadic’s game this season, as he has banged in a remarkable 30 goals in all competitions.

Considering that the other strikers in the team - veteran Klaas Jan Huntelaar and 21-year-old Kasper Dolberg have added a further 27 goals, Ajax’s attack looks more than impressive this term.

It is obvious that such figures cannot be reached without an efficient midfield and there’s little doubt that Ajax has that in the form of veteran Lasse Schone, youngster Frenkie De Jong and Donny van de Bek, who provides the box-to-box movement. De Jong is the main playmaker and considering his performances, it is no surprise that Barcelona have already secured his signature for the summer.

At just 21 years of age, the Dutchman has averaged 79 passes per game with a success rate of 91.2% this term. De Jong’s main task is to distribute the ball quickly, but he also has the ability to dribble past an opponent when needed. There is an unbelievable sense of maturity and composure coming off De Jong’s game, which adds a remarkable ease to his game, so it is no coincidence that the Ajax starlet is already drawing comparisons to Andres Iniesta.

However, De Jong is not the only talented and cool-headed youngster in this Ajax team, as 19-year-old captain Matthijs de Ligt has been the most discussed player of the team since the start of the campaign. Just like Ajax the Great from the Greek mythology, De Ligt is a towering figure with supreme intellect and maturity well beyond his tender age.

Captaining such a historic club as a teeneger showcases how strong, composed and motivated the defender is. Based on current form De Ligt should be considered as one of the best man-markers in European football, so the battle between him and Cristiano Ronaldo, who recovered from his muscle injury and is expected to start for Juventus, promises to be a mouthwatering one.

Keeping in mind how good De Ligt is at the moment, it’s scary to even think how much better he can get. Therefore it’s obvious why Barcelona and Juventus have strong interest in signing the the Ajax captain.

With both Ajax and Juventus going through some rough periods since their epic battles in the 90s, many hope that tomorrow’s clash at the Johan Cruyff Arena will mark the revival of the historic rivalry between the two sides.

Juventus clearly start as favorites, but quality of the forgotten Dutch giant should not be underestimated.

Have your say...

At least try share something useful instead of bunch of gibberish
on the 10th April, 2019 at 9:56pm
@Vikbore cure thy self and spread the joy of being an unbiased Milan supporter. I wait in anticipation for thy spiritual guidance as you go down footballs version of Sauls road to Damascus to unbiased posts. Awaiting your next post to be positive and up lifting pros void of negative whining.
on the 10th April, 2019 at 11:29am
Also with or with without that penalty call juve will still be 18 points clear gahahaha yes juve really needed that penalty to not be given lolol losers!
on the 10th April, 2019 at 11:25am
Yes vicky and milan need to clarify FFP hahahahha!
on the 10th April, 2019 at 11:23am
@viktor Funny you should mention City penalty. Here is the reactions

on the 10th April, 2019 at 11:12am
No one cared when Napoli played volleyball inside the box last season. No one in the media mentioned that. We see it time after time how they ignores decisions going for other teams. I've seen it countless times on this site where the decisions does not even get a mention, but as soon as its Juve we get a headline post like "Juve win amid controversy"
on the 10th April, 2019 at 10:18am

"Come on Ade don't pile on the ref for not giving a non-deliberate ball to hand as a penalty."

I love how STILL even though a vast majority of media and refs all over Europe claims it was a penalty. Man U got the exact same one against psg, City got it yesterday against Spurs, Inter got it with Politano. Can you at least for ONCE as a Juve supporter just admit something that not totally biased. They even summit a meeting to apologise and clarify the flaws from a ref point of view, Jesus
on the 10th April, 2019 at 5:50am
Big loss that Chiellini is out. Bonucci is no where near Chiellini as a defender and Rugani doesn't have enough experience to fill those shoes. I also don't think that Khedira can provide the defensive steel that Emre can provide in the mid. I expect a high scoring game. Very different then what we've come to expect from Juve. I also don't think Juve's defense can keep a clean sheet here and Allegri should know this. This game will be won by goals not clean sheets.
on the 10th April, 2019 at 2:56am
Juve are superior, but we have a Clown of a Coach who is capable of knocking his own team out.

Just remember that.
on the 9th April, 2019 at 6:18pm
Ajax will attack as they always do and Juve will defend as they always do, nothing is going to change in Johan Cruijff ArenA. But there is a slight different, unlike in Spain, Juve will play like a Boss: calm & sharp. They will score when the time is right. This is Juve! Youth force of Ajax means nothing thanks to Allegri and his secret weapon Simone Folletti. For haters and whiners who dream of Juve is going to attack like Barcelona or City, It's not happening anytime soon.
on the 9th April, 2019 at 5:47pm
I'm a little worried with Chiellini out that Allegri will revert to his Champions League/Conservative defensive line-up from years past where he throws Barzagli in, perhaps as a wide in a 4 man back, with Bonucci and Rugani in the middle. Can you imagine, god bless him, Barzagli just coming back from injury trying to contain Ajax's speed on the wings. Mamma mia!
on the 9th April, 2019 at 4:40pm
Got to agree with Ravanelli, the approach has to be right. Juve need to start on the front foot this time, this is when they have put in their best performances in Europe.
on the 9th April, 2019 at 4:27pm
Come on Ade don't pile on the ref for not giving a non-deliberate ball to hand as a penalty. Be fair we also bought Piatek to miss those sitters that would have won you the game.

Hope we play better against Ajax.
on the 9th April, 2019 at 3:16pm
The biggest threat to Juve is Allegri and how he decides to approach this tie.

You really never know.
on the 9th April, 2019 at 2:32pm
Excited for this showdown, but a little worried that Juve will be without Chiellini. Personally I don't trust Bonucci to hold the line on his own. Either way, looking forward to some exciting matches of football.
on the 9th April, 2019 at 1:39pm
If their attitude matches Ajax's, then they should come through over two legs.

If we get the usual reactive football from Allegri when Juve don't have to chase a game, then they could be in trouble. Allegri has always reverted to type after comeback wins should have convinced him to be more positive from the outset.

It'll be interesting to see if he'll has finally learned his lesson tomorrow and sends Juve out to win and dominate the game.
on the 9th April, 2019 at 12:20pm
Author fails to take into account that even if Juventus are slight favourites, there is high likelihood that all the main stalwarts from that other-worldly 3-0 win against Atlético vis-à-vis CR7, Chiellini and Emre Can may miss the 1st leg.

Coupled with the fact that this is an away leg, I don't think we will win. If I'm optimistic, it'll be a 1-1, or 2-1 win for Ajax.

#FinoAllaFine #ForzaJuve
on the 9th April, 2019 at 12:09pm
Juve should remember this is the champions league, it would be impossible to buy the referees as with MILAN! They have to play like every heavyweight European team if they want to win....
on the 9th April, 2019 at 11:39am

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