Current ranking in Group H of the Champions League shows no real surprises. Celtic were unlucky not to get anything from the away game in Milan and Ajax could have won the home game against Milan if it weren’t for a soft penalty very late which secured a sharing of the points in Amsterdam.
With Ajax 3rd and Celtic bottom of the group the task for both teams is pretty straight forward; take at least 4 points from the next two CL matches.
Ajax are currently ranked 4th in the Dutch league and have already dropped 12 points after 10 games which is pretty disappointing. Ajax have a very young team which saw quality players like Eriksson (Spurs) leave during the transfer period. Next to this, injury of Siem de Jong who suffered from a collapsed lung and out of form goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer didn’t help either. On loan Barcelona player Bojan has a hamstring injury and is out for 6 weeks and Viktor Fischer hasn’t shown his powerful skills lately. Positive sign is current first choice goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen who has shown stability and good form which earned him a starting place in the Dutch national team’s victory against Turkey.
Ajax and in particular manager and former Rangers player Frank de Boer will feel confident going into to the double encounter with Celtic. He has a lot of confidence in his young players and after last Saturday’s draw with Twente commented that Ajax had dominated and outplayed Twente for most of the match.
Ajax have the tendency to be very self-conscious, even arrogant at times. Ajax will always strive to play in 4-3-3 formation and attack which saw them keeping up with Barcelona for 45 minutes. Celtic would be sensible to keep spaces small and let Ajax do the attacking which would give Celtic the opportunity to counter attack.
Celtic have again shown they belong in the group stages of the Champions League. A very brave display in Milan almost paid off and the home tie against Barcelona was tight as well. Celtic have good quality players and the atmosphere on a European night is becoming world famous. Domestically, Celtic are comfortably dominating although signs of improvement are pretty clear. It all comes down to being effective and Celtic are having problems finding the net. Last season, Gary Hooper was a real danger man and his departure gave Neil Lennon some serious thinking to do.
Pukki hasn’t really shown his ability yet and Balde rarely had a chance to show what he can do.
In Milan, Anthony Stokes did very well and I personally like Kris Commons. With Brown, Commons, Matthews and Boerrigter out for coming Tuesday it will mean a different formation for Celtic with Joe Ledley and Rogic or Kayal searching for a place in the team. Personally I am not a fan of Scott Brown’s skills as a Football player on European level so it will be interesting to see how his replacement will do. In the end it will come down to the danger men Samaras and Stokes to keep Celtic’s European hopes alive.
If Celtic can hold it together and keep concentration at 100% during the whole match, I believe Celtic can beat Ajax on the day. My prediction is 2-1 Celtic.
The day itself will be good as I expect a lot of Ajax supporters in Glasgow and even more Celtic supporters travelling to Amsterdam in 2 weeks. And remember, when a Dutchmen asks you directions to a nearby coffees hop he’s not looking for a Starbucks….
Louis van den Oetelaar