14 February 2019
Rocked by a shock 1-0 road loss to Heracles in the domestic championship, Ajax welcome an in-form Real Madrid to the Johan Cruyff Arena in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.
Finished second in the UCL Group E behind Bayern Munich, the hosts have secured the knockout stage promotion as one of five unbeaten sides in this year’s edition. Erik ten Hag’s players have been outstanding at home this season, as they are yet to suffer a failure at the Johan Cruyff Arena in all competitions (W14, D3) having scored 3+ match goals 14 times in the process. However, the Eredivisie giants’ drop-off in form has seen them lose two of their last four competitive outings (W2, L2) although both have come away from home. A shaky backline that has failed to keep a clean slate in 9 of their last 11 competitive outings could be Ajax’s principal problem in this encounter considering Real Madrid’s recent displays.
Although finished top of Group E, La Liga heavyweights have suffered two defeats in the group stage, both to CSKA Moscow (without hitting the back of the net). But, the reigning European champions come into this meeting off the back of a stunning 3-1 road win over city rivals Atletico Madrid as they look to extend a promising 7-game unbeaten run across all competitions (W6, D1). Moreover, Los Blancos have secured three wins in their last four competitive road clashes (W3, D1), scoring over 2.5 goals per match three times in the sequence. Meanwhile, Santiago Solari still has to figure it out how to solve his team’s weak defensive performance away from home as Los Merengues have failed to keep a clean sheet on 7 successive road trips, conceding 2+ match goals only twice though.
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