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Saturday, 19 January, 2019

In-form Ajax ready to home in on vital first-leg lead

Davy Klaassen is a key man for Ajax who should prove too strong for Schalke
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Ajax v Shalke
BT Sport Showcase/BT Sport 3, 8.05pm
Celta Vigo v Genk
BT Sport Extra 3, 8.05pm
Lyon v Besiktas
BT Sport Extra 3, 8.05pm

The Amsterdam ArenA has been a fortress for Ajax this season and they can make home advantage count by nicking a first-leg lead in their Europa league quarter-final tie.

Peter Bosz’s men have won all five ties in front of their own fans on their way to the last eight, four of them to nil.

They are every bit as dominant at home in the league where they have won 12 and drawn one of their 13 Eredivisie matches since they were stunned by Willem II in August.

Their last two home successes – 2-1 against leaders Feyenoord and 4-1 against Alkmaar – have also reignited the title race and boosted their confidence as they prepare for their toughest European test to date.

Ajax weren’t handed the easiest of group draws but topped a section featuring Celta Vigo, Standard Liege and Panathinaikos.

They beat all three opponents at home before going on to topple Legia Warsaw and Copenhagen in the knockout stages.

The enigmatic Schalke are a different test altogether, though their form is patchy.

The reputation of the Bundesliga ensures they get treated with respect but three wins in the last 12 is hardly eye-catching form.

Celta, runners-up to Ajax in Group G, have seen off eastern European heavyweights Shakhtar and Krasnodar in the knockout stages so could be forgiven for thinking they have got off lightly being paired with Genk.

That would be a risky assumption, however.

In the autumn, when Genk were struggling under Peter Maes, the Belgian side still managed to win their Europa League group, leaving Athletic Bilbao in their wake.

Since Maes’ exit and the appointment of Albert Stuivenburg at Christmas, they have improved markedly with just three defeats in 19 competitive games.

A win in Vigo might still be beyond them but they can definitely find the net, something they have managed in seven straight Europa League road trips this season.

2pts 13-8 bet365
Celta v Genk both teams to score
2pts Evens Hills

They are every bit as dominant at home in the league where they have won 12 and drawn one of their last 13 Eredivisie matches
E.W. Terms
Sky bet