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Ajax
Europa Conference League | Round of 16 | 1st Leg
Mar 7, 2024 at 5.45pm UK
Johan Cruijff Arena
Aston Villa logo

Ajax
0 - 0
Aston Villa


Mannsverk (24'), Gooijer (68')
Gooijer (86')
FT

Konsa (25'), Cash (64'), Zaniolo (76')
Konsa (83')

Preview: Ajax vs. Aston Villa - prediction, team news, lineups

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

Aston Villa return to Europa Conference League action on Thursday evening when they square off against Ajax in the first leg of their last-16 tie.

While Villa progressed through to this stage of the competition through winning Group E before Christmas, Ajax came through a dramatic playoff tie with Bodo/Glimt last month.


Match preview

Aston Villa manager Unai Emery before the match on March 2, 2024© Reuters

The priorities of Unai Emery may have changed over the course of this season, with Villa once being regarded as surprise Premier League title candidates before dropping off the pace.

Nevertheless, the West Midlands outfit remain very much in the running to win a European trophy as well as qualify for the 2024-25 Champions League.

Consecutive Premier League victories over Fulham, Nottingham Forest and Luton Town have opened up a five-point advantage over Tottenham Hotspur in the race for fourth position.

Ahad of this game, though, Villa have kept just one clean sheet in seven attempts, with that shutout coming against struggling Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.

To reach this stage of the competition, Emery's team successfully negotiated a group that involved Legia Warsaw and Zrinjski Mostar, as well as another Dutch side in AZ Alkmaar who they defeated both home and away.

Ajax interim coach John van't Schip on December 14, 2023© Reuters

With AZ sitting four points above Ajax in the Eredivisie table, that could be used as some sort of measuring stick, yet Ajax have shown that their unpredictability can be both their strength and weakness.

Going 16 matches without a clean sheet and posting one win in six meant that John Van't Schip's side were considered as underdogs in some quarters when facing in-form FC Utrecht at the weekend.

Instead, Ajax were able to respond with a morale-boosting 2-0 victory over a potential candidate for fifth place, with Van't Schip's side now back in the hunt for fourth.

In this competition, Bodo/Glimt was defeated in dramatic circumstances in the playoff round, with Ajax scoring two stoppage-time goals to draw 2-2 in the first leg before prevailing 2-1 in the reverse fixture in Norway through a goal six minutes from the end of extra time.

Ajax Europa Conference League form:


Ajax form (all competitions):


Aston Villa Europa Conference League form:


Aston Villa form (all competitions):



Team News

Leon Bailey celebrates scoring their first goal with Moussa Diaby on December 30, 2023© Reuters

Van't Schip must decide whether to stick with the unfamiliar defensive 5-4-1 formation that worked out against FC Utrecht at the weekend.

Jordan Henderson returned to feature in midfield, with more attack-minded players such as Carlos Forbs and Chuba Akpom having to make do with places among the replacements.

Each of the duo are in contention to return, although Steven Bergwijn remains sidelined through injury and Josip Sutalo is serving a ban.

With Jacob Ramsey suffering an injury against Luton at the weekend, Moussa Diaby could be recalled to the Villa XI, either on the left flank or in close proximity to Ollie Watkins.

Pau Torres and Lucas Digne are also options to return in defence ahead of Clement Lenglet and Alex Moreno respectively.


Ajax possible starting lineup:
Ramaj; Gooijer, Rensch, Kaplan, Hato, Sosa; Hlynsson, Henderson, Mannsverk, Taylor; Brobbey

Aston Villa possible starting lineup:
Martinez; Cash, Konsa, Lenglet, Moreno; Bailey, McGinn, Luiz, Tielemans; Diaby; Watkins


SM words green background

We say: Ajax 1-1 Aston Villa

With Ajax having finally kept a clean sheet at the weekend, Villa will have to show more respect to their opponents, who are hinting at an upturn in fortunes. Nevertheless, Villa feel like a more cohesive unit, and we are backing them to earn a share of the spoils in Amsterdam.


For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.




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Game History

How you voted: Ajax vs Aston Villa

Ajax
23.0%
Draw
18.3%
Aston Villa
58.7%
252
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General view inside Aston Villa's Villa Park before the match on January 8, 2023
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Tables header RHS

Group A

TeamPWDLPTS
QLille642014
QSlovan Bratislava631210
3Ljubljana62046
4KI61144

Group B

TeamPWDLPTS
QM. Tel Aviv650115
QGent641113
3Luhansk62137
4Breidablik60060

Group C

TeamPWDLPTS
QPlzen660018
QDinamo Zagreb63039
3Astana61144
4KF Ballkani61144

Group D

TeamPWDLPTS
QBrugge651016
QBodo/Glimt631210
3Besiktas61144
4Lugano61144

Group E

TeamPWDLPTS
QAston Villa641113
QLegia640212
3AZ62046
4Zrinjski Mostar61144

Group F

TeamPWDLPTS
QFiorentina633012
QFerencvaros624010
3Genk62319
4Cukaricki60060

Group G

TeamPWDLPTS
QPAOK651016
QFrankfurt63039
3Aberdeen61326
4HJK Helsinki60242

Group H

TeamPWDLPTS
QFenerbahce640212
QLudogorets640212
3Nordsjaelland631210
4Spartak Trnava60151


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