Good evening folks! I'm Giuseppe and I will be taking you through tonight's Champions League
clash between Ajax
at the Amsterdam Arena.
Sadly for both of these teams, they are out of contention for the latter stages of the Champions League. Ajax currently sit third on two points - ten behind second-placed Paris Saint-Germain - while APOEL are fourth on one. That said, there is still a Europa League place at stake here tonight.
Should the Dutch giants secure at least a draw against their Cypriot opponents, they will prolong their European campaign come the New Year, while for APOEL, only a win will do to pip the hosts to third place in the group.
Team news are now filtering through...
AJAX STARTING XI: Cillessen, Van Rhijn, Veltman, Moisander, Viergever, Klaassen, Serero, Andersen, Schone, Milik, Kishna
APOEL STARTING XI: Pardo, Mario Sergio, Papazoglou, Carlao, Antoniades, Vinicius, Nuno Morais, Tiago Gomes, Efrem, Alexandrou, Sheridan
AJAX SUBS: Boer, Van der Hoorn, Riedewald, El Ghazi, Denswil, Bazoer, Zivkovic
APOEL SUBS: Chiotis, Ioannou, Kaka, Artymatas, Manduca, Aloneftis, Sotiriou
So that's one change for Ajax from their 5-0 Eredivisie win against Willem II at the weekend, as striker Kolbeinn Sigthorsson is replaced by Arkadiusz Milik
. The Icelander is out with an ankle injury.
APOEL, meanwhile, make three changes - defender Tassos Papazoglou and midfielders Georgios Efrem and Nektarios Alexandrou are in the starting XI at the expense of Joao Guilherme, Gustavo Manduca and Efstathios Aloneftis.
Ajax are on the verge of making unwanted history tonight - if they don't claim a victory from this encounter, it would be the first time in the Dutch club's history that they have failed to win any of their six Champions League group outings.
Manager Frank de Boer
is determined to end the group on a high and secure Europa League qualification. He is quoted by Uefa.com
as saying: "You should always aim as high as you can. Last year and the year before we had great teams in our group.
"We just have to make sure we stay in the competition because it is only by playing against such teams [Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain] that you can get better. They play at a higher tempo and you don't see that a lot in our league. That's a very important aspect, but in the UEFA Europa League you will have opponents that will really test you too."
© Getty Images
The statistics don't make pleasant reading for APOEL fans regarding their prospects in tonight's game, to be fair. They have scored just one goal this season in the Champions League - from the penalty spot - and they have never won a game away from home in the competition.
APOEL manager Giorgos Donis
has said this of tonight's tie: "We probably don't have much chance in this match. It's very difficult to win an away game like this. Ajax are a very good club and have a very good team, maybe better than ours, but anything can happen in football."
On the plus side, they're on a decent run of form domestically, claiming successive 1-0 wins in the Cypriot First Division, and sit five points clear of Apollon at the top of the table. If they can take this into tonight's game, then you never know what might happen.
Ajax find themselves missing star striker Kolbein Sigthorsson tonight. The Icelander opened the scoring early on against Willem II at the weekend, but had to be withdrawn shortly after due to an injury and will be sidelined until after the mid-season break, the club confirmed on Monday.
18-year-old striker Richario Zivkovic is on the bench for the hosts, and could be in line to make his Champions League debut as a substitute. He's been given a lot of acclaim, so we might see him tonight.
The Amsterdam Arena is packed out tonight, with the crowd waving white and red flags around with metronomic precision.
Just around five minutes until kickoff now, with the players lining up and on the verge of coming out of the tunnel.
And here come the players! They line up on the Amsterdam Arena pitch for the Champions League anthem. Sadly, it's the last time both sides will hear that track this season, but they will be wanting to go out on a high and try to secure Europa League qualification.
Will Ajax see off their opponents and finish third, or can APOEL make it eleventh-time lucky away from home?
KICKOFF! The game at the Amsterdam Arena is underway! Ajax kick off.
The hosts passing it around their half in the early stages, but beginning to probe forward. They will not be taking any chances tonight and can afford to be patient.
Ajax lose possession and APOEL edge forward towards the home side's box, but Vinicius skies his shot well over the bar.
The men in red and white continue to maintain possession well, but once again flounder before they can really get into the Cypriots' final third.
CHANCE! Schone shows persistance on the right wing and makes it to the byline before cutting into the centre of the visitors' box. The ball deflects off an APOEL defender before Van Rhijn collects the rebound on the edge of the box and curls it considerably wide.
Free kick given to Ajax after Morais hacks Andersen down from behind. No card shown, but the referee warns the APOEL man about his future conduct in the game.
More of the same really, as Ajax maintain possession but are unable to really penetrate the APOEL back line.
The visitors are eager coming forward, however, and giving Ajax problems of their own. Morais gets a diagonal ball over to Sergio on the right flank, who goes on to plays a high cross into the box towards Sheridan, but Cillesen catches with ease.
After more tentative midfield play from Ajax, APOEL manage to break with Sheridan slipping Efrem through on goal, but the attacker's shot is blocked by Moisander who puts it behind for a corner, one of two in quick succession. The ball is then launched towards Sergio, but play is stopped for offside. A good spell for the Cypriots.
APOEL continue to look dangerous on the break. Efrem is next to have a shot after charging into Ajax's final third, but his shot is well wide.
The crowd is beginning to grow a bit restless as they eagerly anticipate an opening goal. We're perhaps in second gear now, but it's still not quite in full swing.
Kishna charges down the left flank and whips a cross which comes all the way over. Schone, who collects at the far post, spends too much time deliberating over taking a shot, which allows the APOEL defence to regroup and clear the danger.
CHANCE! Kishna lashes another great cross from the left-hand side, and Milik decides to go for a diving header, which lacks enough power and is saved by Pardo. The rebound is then blasted over by Schone. Best chance of the game so far, but he should have used his feet rather than stoop all the way down for a header.
That chance by Milik has invigorated the game, as both sides up their tempo by several notches. The Pole ends a fast-paced spell by firing a long-range effort which is always going out but ultimately ends just a yard off the post in the end.
Now it's APOEL's turn to threaten, but while they are able to get crosses into the box, courtesy of Sheridan and Gomes, Ajax are able to get them cleared with ease.
Following that counter-attack by the visitors, Ajax decide to slow the tempo down again, playing it back into their own half on several occasions. As I said before, the hosts can afford to be patient tonight.
Two dives in quick succession by Ajax players as they surge into APOEL's final third, but referee Carlos Velasco Carballo is alert to them and waves the calls for free kicks away.
Alexandrou brings Schone down with a hack, giving the hosts a free kick not far outside the box. Schone and Milik stand over the ball, with the Dane's shot hitting the wall and bounces out for a corner. The follow-up set piece is ineffective, though.
Ajax continue to mount the pressure within the visitors' final third, but lack a cutting edge when it comes to notching up efforts of considerable note. The Amsterdam Arena has gone pretty quiet at this stage.
PENALTY! Antoniades brings down Milik in the box after Schone's low cross. The hosts have a chance to break the deadlock right at the death here.
GOAL! AJAX 1-0 APOEL (LASSE SCHONE PENALTY)
HALF-TIME: AJAX 1-0 APOEL
From the penalty spot, Schone tucks the ball into the bottom-left corner, just past the reach of Pardo, with the referee blowing the whistle before the visitors are given a chance to restart. So it's advantage Ajax here at the Amsterdam Arena, and they look well on course to seal third place in the group.
In the process, Antoniades was also booked, and to be fair, it certainly looked a stonewall penalty, despite APOEL's complaints.
After a sluggish start to the match, Ajax settled in, pushing the pace and controlling the play. Although APOEL had their moments, the hosts were responsible for the bulk of the opportunities in the half.
Cillesen has yet to be tested by the Cypriots, who haven't registered a single effort on target in the first 45 minutes. They will need to effectively double their entire Champions League tally so far this season in the second half of this game, by scoring two goals.
APOEL have had their moments, to be fair. They've launched some good forays into Ajax's final third. If they keep it up and succeed in being just a bit more clinical and creative, they might nick a goal, and then, who knows?
Here come the players for the second half. Both sides will surely give it their all in their last 45 minutes of their respective Champions League campaigns this season.
KICKOFF: The visitors get the second half underway, with no changes for either side at the break.
Morais stumbles under apparent contact as he charges into Ajax's final third, but nothing is given. Both sides looking lively early on here.
BOOKING: Vinicius is shown a yellow card for a cynical tackle against Veltman in the middle of the park.
GOAL! AJAX 2-0 APOEL (LASSE SCHONE)
Papazoglou's miskick gives the ball away in midfield, which allows Ajax to maraud forward into APOEL's box. Milik's effort is saved, but Schone on the rebound fires home, and surely that will kill off the game now.
GOAL! AJAX 3-0 APOEL (DAVY KLAASSEN)
Kishna magnificently weaves his way past two APOEL defenders, before flicking the ball into the box. Klaassen beats his man and gets his head onto it, the ball drifting into the net past Pardo. And that is all but game over.
CHANCE! Ajax are in danger of handing out a hiding to APOEL here, as Van Rhijn sends a cross into the box and Veltman gets his head onto the ball from close range, but it flies over. He should have done better there.
Ajax are sitting comfortably here. There is virtually no chance of APOEL bagging four goals in the last half hour, and the men in red and white continue to probe forward - they're not done here.
CHANCE! A slip from Van Rhijn allows Sheridan to run in on a counter, but Veltman does well to force the striker to the outside, where he puts his cross onto the top of the net.
SUBSTITUTIONS: A double change for APOEL as Pieros Sotiriou replaces Cillian Sheridan and Efstathios Aloneftis comes on for Georgios Efrem.
SUBSTITUTION: A change for Ajax as Lucas Andersen leaves the field, with 18-year-old Jairo Riedewald coming on in his place and making his Champions League debut.
BOOKING: APOEL are clearly getting frustrated here, as Nuno Morais fouls Serero in midfield, earning himself a yellow card.
CHANCE! Serero glides past two defenders before laying the ball off for Kishna. The winger rushes to get onto it, just beating Pardo to the ball, but the stopper spreads himself and makes a save.
SUBSTITUTION: Nuno Morais sees his time on the pitch come to an end following his booking, with Kostakis Artymatas taking his place.
GOAL! AJAX 4-0 APOEL (ARKADIUSZ MILIK)
Ajax are not slowing down, are they? They want a goalfest here, and they're getting it. A very altruistic move by Klaassen, who split the APOEL defence wide open with a wonderful through-ball to Milik. The Pole goes on to roll the ball home at the near post and gets his first Champions League goal. He deserves it after his great display tonight.
SUBSTITUTION: Lasse Schone leaves the pitch to a standing ovation for his two goals tonight, Anwar El Ghazi taking his place.
Cillessen has yet to have to make a save for the hosts as APOEL continue to probe forward, but remain completely toothless. A free kick from the visitors forces a corner, but again, nothing comes of it.
CHANCE! Serero slips Kishna through on the left-hand side, with the talented winger whipping another great ball into the APOEL area. El Ghazi aims to nod it back towards Milik, but Carlao gets there first to clear. Nearly a fifth for Ajax.
SUBSTITUTION: Ajax striker Arkadiusz Milik comes off, with highly-rated youngster Richairo Zivkovic coming in his place for his debut in the competition.
Alexandrou's foul on Serero gifts Ajax a free kick in a good position, but the shot by Van Rhijn is predictable and easily saved by Pardo.
CHANCE! Kishna delivers a corner into the area, with the unmarked Veltman charging forward and getting his head onto the ball. However, he misses the target.
Cillessen has had virtually nothing to do all game, but gets himself into a spot of bother after attempting a dummy two yards from goal with two APOEL players bearing down on him. The Dutch international does manage to clear it into touch, but it was a nervy moment.
The referee indicates three minutes of injury time at the Amsterdam Arena.
FULL TIME: AJAX 4-0 APOEL
The final whistle is blown on an exciting Champions League game here in Amsterdam which sees Ajax storm to a 4-0 win against hapless APOEL. The visitors failed to get a single shot on target in the 90 minutes as the hosts scored through Lasse Schone's brace and a goal apiece for Davy Klaassen and Arkadiusz Milik.
The Champions League journey ends here for both teams, but Ajax continue their spell in European competition as they advance to the Europa League round of 32 with tonight's victory, which sees them finish in third place.
Bottom-placed APOEL, meanwhile, have a lot of regrouping to do - after getting to the quarter-finals of the Champions League three seasons ago, they have come up awfully short this time round, with no goals from open play in their six games and a solitary point.
Well, that's all from me tonight, but stay tuned to Sports Mole as we bring you all the match reports, latest reaction, analysis and ratings from each of tonight's Champions League games! All the best and enjoy the rest of your evening!