Sports Mole previews Thursday’s Europa League clash between Ajax and Brighton & Hove Albion, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Having turned a corner after a nightmarish start to the new season, Ajax seek a third victory on the bounce when Brighton & Hove Albion visit the Johan Cruyff Arena for Thursday’s Europa League Group B tie.
The Dutch giants will also endeavour to avenge last month’s defeat to the Seagulls, who saw off the hosts 2-0 at the Amex to claim a maiden continental win at the third attempt....Click Here To Continue Reading>>
If one will pardon the pun, John van ‘t Schip has certainly steadied the ship since wandering into the Ajax dumpster fire, taking over a team who had suffered four successive defeats and lost 10 games on the bounce during their sleepwalk to the Eredivisie basement.
As Halloween passed, though, so did Ajax’s horror show, and the hosts enter Thursday’s game having clinched back-to-back Eredivisie wins for the first time this season, firstly putting two unanswered goals past Volendam before comfortably dispatching Heerenveen.
Luuk Browers’s late first-half strike did set up a nail-biting second half after Steven Bergwijn and Brian Brobbey propelled Ajax into a two-goal lead, but an inspired substitution from Van ‘t Schip saw ex-Middlesbrough man Chuba Akpom net a brace in the final 10 minutes to seal a comprehensive 4-1 rout.
Shooting up to 11th in the Eredivisie standings on account of their mini-revival, Ajax have also conceded just once in their last 180 minutes of football after shipping 24 goals in the eight matches before Van ‘t Schip’s arrival, and their Europa League last 16 fate remains in their own hands.
A two-point haul currently sees Ajax languish at the bottom of the section, but the Sons of the Gods have the chance to move level on points with section leaders Marseille should they avoid starting a continental campaign without a win after four games for the first time since the 2015-16 Europa League.
Brighton’s Europa League openers with AEK Athens and Marseille saw Roberto De Zerbi’s vivacious attacking forces score two goals on each occasion, only to be let down by rearguard indiscipline as they walked away from those meetings with just one point to their name.
However, the Seagulls had little trouble quelling the Ajax offence last time out and continued their multiple-goal sequence through Joao Pedro and Ansu Fati to make it third time lucky in Group B, cementing their place in Brighton history with their first-ever win in European competition.
The third-placed visitors continue to play catch-up in the section, though, as they are one point adrift of Marseille and below AEK Athens on head-to-head points, but should their two adversaries play out a draw in Thursday’s top-of-the-table clash, first place will be theirs if they can do the double over Ajax.
Brighton’s domestic exploits have left a lot to be desired, though, as De Zerbi’s team have failed to win any of their last five Premier League matches and needed an Ashley Young own goal to rescue a point in a 1-1 draw with Everton at the weekend, where profligacy denied them a much-needed maximum.
Young’s unfortunate contribution did at least stretch Brighton’s scoring run in all tournaments to seven games, but Dutch sides have often had their English counterparts’ number in that department; Premier League teams have failed to make the net bulge in each of their last three Europa League visits to Eredivisie soil.
Ajax Europa League form:
Ajax form (all competitions):
Brighton & Hove Albion Europa League form:
Brighton & Hove Albion form (all competitions):
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Ajax attacker Bergwijn was a little worse for wear after he was taken off at the Amex two weeks ago, but the ex-Tottenham Hotspur man has shaken off that affliction and should start on the left-hand side of a B-themed Ajax frontline alongside Brobbey and Steven Berghuis, unless Akpom’s brace puts him in Van ‘t Schip’s thinking.
A quartet of Amsterdam-based players are still struggling with injuries, though, as Geronimo Rulli (shoulder), Sivert Mannsverk (leg), Jay Gorter and Amourricho van Axel Dongen (both unspecified) are set to sit out the visit of the Seagulls.
Van ‘t Schip should see little need to disrupt the harmony of a winning team, but the experienced Borna Sosa is a candidate to displace academy product Arjany Martha at left-back.
As far as Brighton are concerned, De Zerbi has a similar handful of fitness concerns to factor in for Thursday’s game, including knee victims Solly March, Julio Enciso and Jakub Moder, although the latter is at least beginning to build up some match fitness with the Under-21s.
Danny Welbeck is also facing an extended period on the sidelines with the injury he sustained towards the end of October, and De Zerbi is not optimistic about Pervis Estupinan’s chances of returning from a thigh injury before the November international break.
The Seagulls boss has not been afraid to rotate his resources to cope with the demands of Premier League and Europa League football, and anticipated changes ought to lead to Fati and Pedro both earning recalls to the frontline as they aim to haunt the Ajax rearguard again.
Ajax possible starting lineup:Ramaj; Rensch, Sutalo, Hato, Sosa; Taylor, Tahirovic, Van den Boomen; Berghuis, Brobbey, Bergwijn
Brighton & Hove Albion possible starting lineup:Steele; Veltman, Van Hecke, Dunk, Milner; Fati, Gross, Gilmour, Mitoma; Pedro, Ferguson
We say: Ajax 1-1 Brighton & Hove Albion
Since locking horns on England’s South Coast two weeks ago, Ajax have been on an upward trajectory under their new manager, while Brighton have hit a Premier League plateau amid their raft of injuries.
As such, replicating their previous success over the Sons of the Gods may be a bridge too far for the under-performing visitors, although a point would be enough to keep Van ‘t Schip’s men off the podium places for the time being.For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.
Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting over 2.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Over 2.5:data
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Saturday’s Transfer Talk Update: Joao Palhinha, Javi Guerra, Ryan Gravenberch
Sports Mole rounds up the latest confirmed transfer news and speculation from across the footballing world.
The January transfer window is almost here and clubs around the UK and Europe are lining up moves as they look to take advantage of the opportunity to strengthen.
Saturday morning’s headlines:...Click Here To Continue Reading>>
Manchester United and Liverpool reportedly enter the race to sign Fulham midfielder Joao Palhinha, who is also attracting interest from Arsenal. Read more.
Chelsea are reportedly willing to do whatever it takes to secure the services of Napoli striker Victor Osimhen. Read more.
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp plays down speculation suggesting the club will look to sign a new centre-back to replace the injured Joel Matip. Read more.
Manchester City goalkeeper Zack Steffen is reportedly in advanced talks with Colorado Rapids over a deal to return to Major League Soccer. Read more.
Premier League duo Chelsea and West Ham United reportedly receive a boost in their pursuit of Lyon’s 20-year-old attacker Rayan Cherki. Read more.
Valencia are allegedly willing to sell midfielder Javi Guerra for a fee in the region of £34.2m amid interest from Manchester United. Read more.
Pep Guardiola apologises to Kalvin Phillips for not selecting him in the Manchester City team this season, but the Citizens boss admits that he “struggles to see” the midfielder in his plans. Read more.
Juventus midfielder Adrien Rabiot, who has been heavily linked with Manchester United, will reportedly sign a new deal in Turin. Read more.
Sporting director Matt Hobbs reveals that defender Jonny will not train with the first team until February at the earliest after a training-ground incident last week. Read more.
Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund meet to discuss a possible swap deal involving Jadon Sancho and Donyell Malen, according to a report. Read more.
RB Leipzig head coach Marco Rose plays down claims that Timo Werner has been given the green light to leave the club during the January transfer window. Read more.
Real Madrid are reportedly keeping a close eye on the uncertain contract situation of Bayern Munich defender Alphonso Davies, whose deal expires in 2025. Read more.
Barcelona reportedly rekindle their interest in Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford and are considering offering Raphinha in exchange for the Englishman. Read more.
Ferran Torres allegedly tells Xavi that he is prepared to remain at Barcelona for at least the remainder of the season. Read more.
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Team News: Alisson Becker returns for Liverpool, Jarell Quansah starts
Alisson Becker returns in goal for Liverpool’s Premier League clash with Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park, while Jarell Quansah starts in defence.
Alisson Becker has returned in goal for Liverpool’s Premier League clash with Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.
The Brazil international has been out with a thigh issue since November’s 1-1 draw with champions Manchester City but has made a quick recovery to demote Caoimhin Kelleher back down to the bench.
Crystal Palace: Johnstone; Ward, Andersen, Guehi, Clyne; Richards, Lerma; Ayew, Hughes, Schlupp; EdouardSubs: Matthews, Tomkins, Riedewald, Ozoh, Ahamada, Olise, Franca, Ebiowei, Mateta
Liverpool: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Quansah, Van Dijk, Tsimikas; Gravenberch, Endo, Szoboszlai; Salah, Nunez, DiazSubs: Kelleher, Gomez, Konate, Jones, Gakpo, Elliott, Doak, McConnell, Bradley
More to follow.
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