Its Matchday 4 of the UEFA Europa League, AFC Ajax are set to host the English Premier League side Brighton and Hove Albion at the iconic Johan Cruyff Arena on Thursday.
The Dutch giants are experiencing a turbulent campaign this season, managing only three wins in their first ten league games. Their recent triumph, a 4-1 victory against Heerenveen, came in the last league game, significantly ending their five consecutive league defeats. This victory has placed them in the 10th position on the league table. While, the Seagulls have experienced fluctuations in their performance since their last league win, a 3-1 victory over Bournemouth in late September. They have been without a win in the last five consecutive league fixtures, managing three draws and two losses. Currently, they have collected just three points and stand in 7th place in the league tally.
Now coming to the Europa clash, Ajax interim coach John Van’t Schip has finally brought some luck to Ajax Arena with two back-to-back wins in Eredivisie. He aims to replicate this success and secure the first three points of the campaign in continental football. Once regarded as favorites in European football, they are now struggling to open their account and are placed at the bottom of Group B.
Brighton’s first leg of fixtures concluded as they played against all three opponents. Their only win in the Europa League came against the same opposition at home in the American Express Stadium. They are currently standing in 3rd place in Group B, accumulating 4 points, the same as 2nd place AEK Athens, who handed Robert de Zerbi‘s side a defeat in their Europa League debut on the 1st Matchday.
Considering the recent form of both sides, Ajax surely has the upper hand over the guests at their den; however, the seagull does have the potential and resources to turn things around.
WHEN AND WHERE?
Where: Johan Cruyff Arena, Amsterdam
When: Thursday, November 9, 2023
Time: 17.45 BST
Referee: Nikola Dabanović
Assistants: Vladan Todorović & Srđan Jovanović
Fourth official: Miloš Bošković
VAR: Bastian Dankert
Assistant VAR: Carlos Grande
For hosts, their goalkeeper’s duo of Geronimo Rulli and Jay Gorter are usually absentees due to injury. Also, midfielder Sivert Mannsverk sustained a foot injury alongside the 19-year-old striker Axel Dongen and will miss the fixture as well.
The Visitors are also dealing with injury woes for several of their players with Solly March & Julio Enciso‘s knee injuries. Danny Welbeck remains sidelined for a prolonged alongside Pervis Estupinan.
Ajax boss John Van’t Schip is expected to deploy the usual 4-3-3 defensive formation, featuring a formidable defense consisting of the center-back pairing of Sutalo and Hato, with Rensch as the right back and Sosa as the left back in a four-man backline. In the midfield, there is a trio of Taylor, Tahirovic, and Van den Boomen, positioned behind the attacking trio of Berghuis and Bergwijn on the wings and Brian Brobbey as the main striker.
Roberto De Zerbi might retain the 4-4-2 system of play from their first league win over Ajax at home. This formation helped them keep a clean sheet and facilitated easy transitional play from the attack to defense, with the midfield complementing the backline while also creating chances to score. The wide midfielders provide attacking options on the flanks. The backline is expected to remain the same, with the only possible change being the inclusion of Fati as one midfielder and Mitoma on the other side. Pedro and Ferguson are set to play as the two forwards ahead of the 4-man midfield.
The 26-year-old Dutch international Steven Bergwijn has netted a total of 6 goals for Ajax in all competitions including one goal against AEK Athens in the Europa League on Matchday 2. The captain has been one of the bright players for the club amid the struggling season. He has been named on the scoresheet in the last two consecutive league games and will be aiming for the 3rd against Brighton.
For seagulls, their Japanese samurai Mitoma will be a key figure in this clash. The 26-year-old winger has been the most reliable name in the Brighton squad for the Italian boss De Zerbi. He has made in total of 7 goal contributions in all competitions so far. Against Ajax, he will be starting his 4th Europa League fixture in a row.
Ajax predicted lineup vs Brighton: Ramaj; Rensch, Sutalo, Hato, Sosa; Taylor, Tahirovic, Van den Boomen; Berghuis, Brobbey, Bergwijn
Brighton predicted lineup vs Ajax: Steele; Veltman, Van Hecke, Dunk, Milner; Fati, Gross, Gilmour, Mitoma; Pedro, Ferguson