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Ajax have barely got themselves back into training and they have the challenge of Greek Superleague runners-up PAOK Salonika in the third qualification stage of the Champions League. Looking for real value in the betting markets, Will Burns thinks the Amsterdammers will win, but with a struggle.
Tuesday 26th July 2016 – 19:45BST
AJAX vs. PAOK SALONIKA
UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE – THIRD ROUND QUALIFYING FIRST LEG
Tuesday night sees Peter Bosz first competitive match as Ajax manager as he control the reins that Frank de Boer left behind at the end of the season. A season which the Amsterdam giants saw PSV pip them to the title on the last day of the season, as Ajax failed to overcome De Graafschap while PSV dispatched PEC Zwolle. A result which placed the final nail in De Boer’s coffin as he resigned immediately.
It’s a new beginning in Amsterdam and although the players are virtually the same with only two summer additions, it’s a fresh start for Bosz, who we last saw in Holland managing Vitesse Arnhem. He will have get his players to adapt to his high pressure style of football as soon as possible. In regards to player changes: right-back Ricardo van Rhijn has departed for Club Brugge and fellow defender Mike van der Hoorn joined Swansea City, in return Bosz has added experienced German defender Heiko Westermann to the ranks from Real Betis and Mateo Cassierra, a 19-year-old Colombian striker from Deportivo Cali signed on the dotted line for €5.5m.
For PAOK FC themselves are experiencing the effects of change in management as Vladimir Ivić only took over from Igor Tudor back in March. They head into Tuesday’s game like Ajax, with this being their first competitive game since the end of last season. These two sides have met only twice before, again a two-legged affair in the UEFA Champions League qualifying back in 2010/11 which produced two draws and saw the Greeks prevail on the away goal rule. Coach Ivić, a former player of the club, scored twice in the legs versus the Amsterdammers.
While looking at the betting, Ajax are very short at 1.65 (with Ladbrokes) so I am avoiding this even though I think they are the most likely winners of this match. PAOK will set-up in a tight 4-3-3 formation which Ajax may find tough to break down so they may look to the counter as a weapon. I see this being a cautious game for Bosz’s side with a high defensive line, Ajax will be looking to hold off the Greeks and keep a clean sheet for the return leg next week. However, this is Ajax’s home leg and they need at least a goal, this may open then up at the back and concede as the young and old pairing of Jairo Riedewald (19) and Westermann (32) may need time to gel with each other.
I envisage Ajax scoring with ease as Anwar El Ghazi, Davy Klaassen, Amin Younes and Lasse Schone, all vying to start, are all capable of filling the opponents goal. Ajax to win with Both Teams to Score is our most value tip priced up at 333/100 at William Hill and if this is land then Over 2.5 Goals is worth a bet at 5/4 with BetBright. I would advise to go small on a Ajax 2-1 win also, best priced with Bet365 at 9/1.
Ajax to win with Both Teams to Score (4.33 at William Hill)
Over 2.5 Goals (2.25 at BetBright)