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Monday, 10 December, 2018

Ajax unlikely to take Sturm Graz to the cleaners

Dutch giants have weaknesses

Ajax drew 1-1 with Wolves in a recent friendly
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Champions League second qualifying round first leg
Wednesday 7.30pm

It's been four years since Ajax qualified for the Champions League group stage and getting through the qualifying rounds has become a perennial problem.

An Eredivisie title win in 2013-14 landed the Dutch giants in the promised land but that was the last time they finished as Holland's top dogs and after four second-placed finishes Ajax have found themselves in the qualifiers.

And that is normally where their European journey takes a turn for the worse.

Each of their last three Champions League qualifying campaigns have ended in disappointment, with a place in the Europa League scant consolation, and they will be desperate to avoid another failure.

It won't be easy, though, for Erik ten Hag's men who must first negotiate a way past Sturm Graz before a tricky tie with Belgian aristocrats, Standard Liege.

Ajax's problem is plain to see. They haven't kept a clean sheet in any of their last eight Champions League qualifying matches and that is something they must address if they are to justify match odds of 
3-10 in this tie.

Their pre-season form has been patchy. A 1-1 draw with Steaua Bucharest was followed by a 3-1 defeat to Anderlecht, while more recently they drew 1-1 with Wolves before losing 2-0 at Walsall.

Those results again show a weakness at the back and Graz will fancy their chances of at least getting on the scoresheet in Amsterdam despite being huge underdogs.

The Austrians are unlikely to have enough to spring a surprise at odds of 9-1 but they could make their mark in a narrow defeat.

Ajax to win and both teams score
1pt 12-5 bet365, BoyleSports

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Ajax's problem is plain to see. They haven't kept a clean sheet in any of their last eight Champions League qualifying matches
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