Bet on Benfica – Ajax in the Champions League
At European level, Ajax has had two seasons to quickly forget. Now that we have finally managed to hibernate in the Champions League again, hopes are growing for a similar European season as in 2018/19. Then there was that semi-final, which was narrowly lost to Tottenham Hotspur. Will there be another chance to play that big Champions League final this season? Ajax has won all its six group matches, but now it is important to start the knockout phase well. Benfica is the opponent in the eighth finals. Wednesday 23 February (kick-off 9 p.m.) we see the first part of this diptych. We are going to preview the Benfica – Ajax match in the Estádio da Luz.
A new week with more Champions League football
After weeks of silence, there were those old-fashioned beautiful Champions League evenings again last week. With PSG – Real Madrid and Inter – Liverpool, the first differences have already been made. This week, the other eighth finalists will play their first leg in the CL knockout phase. Our eyes are of course focused on Benfica – Ajax.
Benfica and Ajax have both played a very different group stage. Sporting, Borussia and Beşiktaş did not pose any problems for Ajax. With 18 points from six matches, the Ajax players remained clear (at least in terms of the end result). Only Liverpool and Bayern Munich played a similar clear group stage. Those 18 points for Bayern have not done Benfica any good either. But that 5-2 out in Munich and that 0-4 in their own Estádio da Luz were not the only Champions League matches that cost the Portuguese points. Benfica only won two group matches and also drew twice. Still, those 7 points were just enough to leave the Catalans behind and force them to winter in the Champions League. Only… is Nélson Veríssimo’s team in good enough shape to survive another round? In Lisbon, we are by no means certain of this.
It’s rumbling at Benfica
Benfica was for years the superpower in the Primeira Liga. In the six seasons between 2013/14 and 2018/19, the capitals won no fewer than five national titles. In the last two seasons, Benfica had to settle for second and third place. The national championship does not seem to be coming in 2021/22 either. After 23 rounds of play, the team is third, 12 points behind leader Porto and 6 points behind Sporting. Nélson Veríssimo cannot be blamed entirely for this delay. The 44-year-old Portuguese only switched from the B-team to Benfica A at the end of December and with that he had to continue the work of Jorge Jesus. Still, the fans prefer to see Veríssimo leave immediately. It is therefore quite rumbling in the run-up to the Benfica – Ajax match.
Ten games have now been played with Veríssimo as the main responsible along the sidelines. Of those ten matches, Benfica has lost three and drawn two. Only two wins have been won in the last five games. For a club that dominated Portuguese football not so long ago, that’s just not good enough. Benfica also lost points last weekend. And with a 0-0 against the number fourteen of the competition, Boavista. The 4-4-2 system that Veríssima often chooses does not seem to work for this team. Benfica plays predictably and is currently dropping too many stitches. The Portuguese can just break that up in the eighth final of the Champions League.
There are opportunities for Ajax on Wednesday
It is clear that things are messy at Benfica, and not everything is peaceful at Ajax either. A lot has happened behind the scenes, but the performance is still good. Because since that 1-2 loss to AZ on December 12, Ajax has won all its matches. Yet last weekend against Willem II almost went wrong. The Ajax players created enough opportunities, but the restless, rushed game ensured that it remained exciting for a long time. It was only in the last 10 minutes of the match that Jurriën Timber gave Ajax the lead and the team from Amsterdam could breathe a sigh of relief.
With that 0-1 at Willem II, Ajax has its tenth win in a row. The club has now made a small gap with PSV in the competition, and that semi-final place has been secured in the cup tournament. The next goal is clear: to reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League. Ten Hag can have a fairly fit selection in Lisbon on Wednesday. With Haller, Tadić and Antony, Ajax has a few players in its ranks who can make a difference, although they also know what scoring is at Benfica. The team from Amsterdam must therefore remain alert during the first part of that beautiful Champions League diptych.
We predict this for Benfica – Ajax
The Benfica that kept PSV out of Europe’s highest club competition last summer is a very different Benfica than it is today. That offers opportunities when Ajax enters the field of the Estádio da Luz on Wednesday at 9 pm! With a draw, the team from Amsterdam already has a good starting point for that return on 15 March. And yet there is more to it.
The bookmakers have a clear favorite the away game in Lisbon. For example, 1XBET sets the following odds for Benfica – Ajax: 4.25 (Benfica win), 4.20 (draw) and 1.77 (Ajax win). The other major bookmakers do not differ much from this. We can’t get around the difference in shape either. Benfica may play a home game, but that probably won’t help O Glorioso . If Erik ten Hag keeps his team sharp and focused on Wednesday, Ajax can make all the difference in Lisbon. We expect Benfica to score a goal. We therefore bet on a 1-3 final score.