MX23RW : Thursday, January 20 22:33:49| >> :120:14054:14054:
Dec 7, 2021 at 8pm UK at Amsterdam Arena
AjaxAjax
4-2
Sporting LisbonSporting Lisbon
Haller (8' pen.), Antony (42'), Neres (58'), Berghuis (62')
Schuurs (44'), Alvarez (54')
FT(HT: 2-1)
Santos (22'), Tabata (78')
Braganca (7'), Tabata (35')

Preview: Ajax vs. Sporting Lisbon - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Tuesday's Champions League clash between Ajax and Sporting Lisbon, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Group C winners Ajax will aim to maintain their flawless Champions League record on Tuesday, as they welcome fellow last-16 qualifiers Sporting Lisbon to Amsterdam.

The two national champions have already reached the knockout stages, and reconvene on the final matchday of the group phase after the Dutch champions' crushing victory in the Portuguese capital.


Match preview

Ajax's Dusan Tadic celebrates after they score their first goal on October 19, 2021© Reuters

Since September's scintillating opening day success, when Ajax kicked off their Group C campaign with a 5-1 win at Sporting thanks to Sebastien Haller's four-goal haul, they have continued that momentum to confirm Champions League progress with a game to spare.

The first player since Ajax legend Marco van Basten to score four times on his competition debut, Haller was again at his potent best last month, when the Amsterdammers secured top spot with a 2-1 comeback win at Besiktas. The Ivorian's second-half brace as a substitute proved enough to see off the Istanbul outfit, and helped Ajax win their opening five group games for the first time.

Erik ten Hag's relentless team also sit top of the Eredivisie after 15 matches, following a 5-0 victory over Willem II last Thursday, when they enjoyed three-quarters of the possession and did not concede a single shot on target. That takes their league tally to a staggering 48 goals this term - a rate of over three per game.

A fourth successive win in all competitions also stretches Ajax's unbeaten run to ten matches since the start of October, and despite the close attentions of old rivals PSV, they are already strong favourites to be crowned Dutch champions for the 36th time next spring.

Though the pressure is off on Tuesday, they will now want to join the select group of clubs to have qualified from a Champions League group with six wins from six, as their exploits so far have secured top spot for the first time since 1995-96 when, as holders, they went on to reach the final.

Under the much-admired Ten Hag, Ajax also reached the semi-finals in 2019, and his vibrant current crop will harbour ambitions of matching that achievement after the competition's mid-winter break.

Sporting Lisbon's Paulinho celebrates scoring their second goal with teammates on November 28, 2021© Reuters

Following a pair of September setbacks for Sporting's young side, they have matched this week's opponents win for win over the last three matchdays, which has proved enough to nail down qualification as Group C runners-up before their trip to the Netherlands.

Having opened their first group stage in four years with back-to-back defeats, a recent revival has since seen the Lions reach the knockout phase for only the second time in the Champions League's current format.

Their latest success came in an impressive defeat of Borussia Dortmund late last month, when they stormed into a two-goal lead before the break, thanks to a double from top scorer Pedro Goncalves; ultimately running out 3-1 winners.

Since joining Sporting in August 2020, Goncalves went on to end his first season at the Alvalade as the Primeira Liga's top scorer with 23 goals, and has started the current campaign in similar form, having made his Portugal debut during the summer. Eleven goals at home and abroad so far mean the former Wolves forward is again leading the way for the in-form Lisbon giants.

Last Friday's 3-1 win at city rivals Benfica represented a 12th straight success in all competitions for Ruben Amorim's winning machine, who are currently tied on points with Porto at the top of the domestic standings. A 50th Liga victory for Amorim - in just his 66th match in charge of either Braga or Sporting - confirms the 37-year-old coach as one of Ten Hag's fellow contenders to be Europe's hottest managerial property.

His Sporting side, though, return to continental action against one of Europe's most fluent attacking sides this week, so could finally find their progress checked by a team that dismantled them on the opening matchday.

Ajax Champions League form:
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W

Ajax form (all competitions):
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W

Sporting Lisbon Champions League form:
  • L
  • L
  • W
  • W
  • W

Sporting Lisbon form (all competitions):
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W



Team News

Ajax's Sebastien Haller celebrates scoring their second goal with teammates on September 28, 2021© Reuters

Joint-top scorer in the Champions League so far, Sebastien Haller recovered from illness to feature against Willem II, and the first player ever to score nine goals in his first five matches - eclipsing Erling Haaland's previous best of eight - could now match Cristiano Ronaldo's 2017 record of netting in all six group games.

Also just two goals short of Ronaldo's overall group stage record established six years ago, Haller will start up front, with support from Brazilian winger Antony and influential captain Dusan Tadic.

Goalkeeper Andre Onana made his first Ajax appearance this season in the victory at Besiktas, following a long ban, and could replace Remko Pasveer between the posts again on Tuesday. Experienced stopper Maarten Stekelenburg is expected to miss the rest of the season after undergoing groin surgery.

While Mohammed Kudus sustained a rib injury during Ghana's match with South Africa last month and is out until 2022, Erik ten Hag has no other major injury concerns and should name a strong side despite progress already being assured.

Sporting, meanwhile, have both Jovane Cabral (knee) and Ruben Vinagre (ankle) out of action once again, while midfield mainstay Joao Palhinha limped off against Tondela with a thigh injury and subsequently missed the win at Benfica.

Captain Sebastian Coates was ruled out of last Friday's fixture by COVID-19, so is unlikely to take his place in the visitors' back three at the Johan Cruijff Arena. In his absence, Luis Neto should deputise.

Up front, Pedro Goncalves - whose double against Dortmund was his 11th for Sporting and a third in four matches - could join Bruno Tabata and Tiago Tomas in a potent attacking trident.

Ajax possible starting lineup:
Onana; Mazraoui, Schurrs, Martinez, Tagliafico; Alvarez, Gravenberch, Klaassen; Tadic, Haller, Antony

Sporting Lisbon possible starting lineup:
Adan; Inacio, Neto, Reis; Porro, Braganca, Ugarte, Esgaio; Goncalves, Tabata; Paulinho


SM words green background

We say: Ajax 2-2 Sporting Lisbon

With the top two settled in Group C, both teams can take a free run at this intriguing encounter, which should be a much closer affair than the one-sided first meeting back in September.

Thanks to an abundance of pace and trickery, either side is adept at making opponents pay in the final third, so an open game should end in a score draw.



Top tip

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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How you voted: Ajax vs Sporting Lisbon

Ajax
69.4%
Draw
14.9%
Sporting Lisbon
15.7%
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Sporting Lisbon coach Ruben Amorim on September 28, 2021
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Todays Game Header Right
Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1PSV EindhovenPSV19151347242346
2Ajax1914325945545
3Feyenoord19123442182439
4Vitesse1911352625136
5AZ AlkmaarAZ19112637241335
6FC Twente1910543022835
7FC UtrechtUtrecht198563326729
8Cambuur199283340-729
9NEC197572426-226
10Heerenveen197482027-725
11Go Ahead Eagles1963101931-1221
12Heracles1954102126-519
13Groningen194782028-819
14RKC WaalwijkRKC Waalwijk194782130-919
15Willem II1953111838-2018
16Sparta RotterdamSparta192891628-1214
17Fortuna SittardSittard1934122048-2813
18PEC Zwolle1923141132-219

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