MX23RW : Sunday, March 7 02:41:59| >> :120:26346:26346:
Feb 25, 2021 at 5.55pm UK at Amsterdam Arena
AjaxAjax
2-1
LilleLille
Klaassen (15'), Neres (88')
Maduro (63'), Neres (85')
FT(HT: 1-0)
Yazici (78' pen.)
Maignan (15'), Djalo (59'), Sanches (65'), Fonte (78')

Preview: Ajax vs. Lille - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Thursday's Europa League clash between Ajax and Lille, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Ajax and Lille gear up for an intense battle at the Johan Cruijff ArenA on Thursday evening as both teams aim to advance to the last 16 of the Europa League.

Lille appeared to be heading for a first-leg triumph last Thursday, but the Eredivisie champions marched to a 2-1 win thanks to late goals from Dusan Tadic and Brian Brobbey.


Match preview

Ajax manager Erik Ten Hag pictured in December 2020© Reuters

Even with the farcical omission of Sebastien Haller and 12-month doping ban handed down to goalkeeper Andre Onana, Ajax managed to take a first-leg advantage back to Amsterdam as they downed Lille 2-1 at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy last week, with Tadic and substitute Bobbey both netting in the final five minutes after Timothy Weah's opener.

Erik ten Hag's side will certainly believe that they are genuine contenders to go all the way in this year's tournament, and even though their last-32 battle with Lille is not done and dusted just yet, Ajax's scintillating form since the turn of the year should help them keep their European dream alive.

Indeed, the Dutch giants have won 10 on the bounce in all competitions and followed up their first-leg triumph over Lille with a 4-2 success over Sparta Rotterdam in the top flight, with Haller announcing his return with a brace while Perr Schuurs and Mohammed Kudus were also on target.

Since a 1-0 defeat to Atalanta in the Champions League on December 9, Ajax have won six out of their last seven on home soil - notching up at least two goals in all but one of those matches - but they are defensively suspect with 10 goals shipped in their last six at the Johan Cruijff ArenA.

The Eredivisie leaders managed to get the better of the Ligue 1 leaders in the first leg, but Ten Hag's side have at least another gruelling 90 minutes ahead of them if they are to progress in the tournament, and Lille also warmed up for this game with a four-goal showing at the weekend.

Lille coach Christophe Galtier in the Europa League on February 18, 2021© Reuters

A minor setback in Lille's Ligue 1 title bid occurred on February 14 with a goalless draw against Brest, but Christophe Galtier proceeded to rally his troops for a trip to an in-form Lorient, and Les Dogues needed no second invitation to cruise to victory at the Stade du Moustoir on Sunday.

Jerome Hergault had initially levelled for Les Merlus after Andreaw Gravillon's own goal, but Lille then struck through Jose Fonte, Jonathan Ikone and Domagoj Bradaric to cement their position atop the Ligue 1 rankings - four points ahead of reigning champions Paris Saint-Germain following their defeat to Monaco.

A resounding win over one of the league's most in-form sides is just what the doctor ordered for Lille as they pack their bags for a daunting trip to Amsterdam, where Galtier's men simply have to expose Ajax's frailties at the back with a gung-ho approach if they are to avoid a swift exit from the competition.

The Dogues faithful have been treated to eight away wins on the bounce from their side, though, with clean sheets to boot in six of those matches, and no team has managed to prevent a travelling Lille team from finding the back of the net on the road this season.

Even with inspirational forward Burak Yilmaz still unable to shake off a calf problem, Galtier ought to have plenty of confidence in the likes of Yusuf Yazici, Jonathan David and Timothy Weah to make the net ripple, but Ajax - with all their European pedigree - are in no position to relinquish their first-leg advantage.

Ajax Europa League form: W
Ajax form (all competitions): WWWWWW

Lille Europa League form: DWDWLL
Lille form (all competitions): WWWDLW


Team News

Ajax full-back Nicolas Tagliafico pictured in October 2019© Reuters

Haller and Onana will play no part in this fixture for Ajax, but Ryan Gravenberch is back from suspension and should reprise his regular role in the engine room.

It remains to be seen if Noussair Mazraoui will be passed fit for the second leg, and on the opposite side of defence, Nicolas Tagliafico also missed out against Sparta through injury and is a major doubt for Thursday.

Daley Blind will continue at left-back if Tagliafico does not make the squad, while David Neres and Davy Klaassen were both named on the bench for Sunday's win but should return here.

Yilmaz remains the only absentee for Lille, who have Benjamin Andre and Xeka back from suspensions served in the first-leg defeat.

However, with both players starting in the victory over Lille, Renato Sanches and Boubakary Soumare will be hopeful of earning places in the engine room.

Reinildo appears to have cemented his spot at left-back over Bradaric, while Yazici and Weah are likely to return to the fold - the latter potentially in place of Luiz Araujo.

Ajax possible starting lineup:
Stekelenburg; Rensch, Schuurs, Martinez, Blind; Alvarez, Gravenberch, Klaassen; Antony, Tadic, Neres

Lille possible starting lineup:
Maignan; Celik, Fonte, Botman, Reinildo; Weah, Andre, Sanches, Bamba; David, Yazici


SM words green background

We say: Ajax 2-2 Lille

Lille's away form has been nothing short of sensational since the turn of the year, but Ajax's record in all competitions also makes for pleasant reading for Ten Hag and co. The Eredivisie leaders dominated the first leg and deservedly came up trumps, so in spite of the fact that Les Dogues will prove a force to be reckoned with on the attacking front, we expect an enthralling second leg to end all square and Ajax to progress to the last 16.



Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting a home win 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.Home Win:data


ID:436392:cQx:QQ:

How you voted: Ajax vs Lille

Ajax
74.9%
Draw
14.2%
Lille
10.8%
351
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Lille midfielder Boubakary Soumare pictured in October 2020
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Ajax23183273185557
2PSV EindhovenPSV24156355262951
3AZ AlkmaarAZ24147356352149
4Feyenoord25137552262646
5Vitesse24143739251445
6Groningen2412663124742
7FC UtrechtUtrecht2491053830837
8FC Twente259974033736
9Heerenveen258983535033
10Fortuna SittardSittard2494113542-731
11Heracles2485112637-1129
12PEC Zwolle2451183238-626
13Sparta RotterdamSparta2466123341-824
14RKC WaalwijkRKC Waalwijk2558122337-1423
15VVV-VenloVVV-Venlo2464143766-2922
16Willem II2546152855-2718
17ADO Den HaagADO Den Haag2529142053-3315
18EmmenEmmen2527162254-3213

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