Ajax have lost several key players over the summer and some feel that they will not have what it takes to make a splash in Europe this year. They are certainly out with a point to prove. They start their campaign on Thursday evening away at Lodogorets Razgrad.
Usually we expect to see Dutch giants Ajax battling in the Champions League with a guaranteed spot in the group stage draw. However, they are having to settle for the Europa League this time around but they have to get through their play-off tie to reach the group stage. They take on Ludogorets Razgrad over two legs and the Amsterdam outfit will be out to silence their doubters.
Ajax disappointingly finished third in the Eredivisie last year, Ajax certainly have a lot of work to do domestically to catch reigning champions Feyenoord. This also stretches in Europe too. After crashing out of the Champions League group stage in 2022-23, followed by a Europa League play-off defeat to Union Berlin, this European giant has seen its reputation take a hit. Manager Maurice Steijn will be eager to rebuild this reputation, and what better way to do this than by taking Ajax far in the Europa League?
They certainly have a way to go to prove their doubters wrong, especially with the key personnel they’ve lost this summer. Defenders Jurrien Timber and Calvin Bassey have joined Arsenal and Fulham respectively. Their biggest loss was the captain and versatile forward Dusan Tadic, whose goals, assists and influence on the pitch will be sorely missed. Midfielder Edson Alvarez has also moved to the Premier League by joining West Ham United.
Ajax have reinvested in the squad with some exciting additions coming on board. Croatian centre-back Josip Sutalo looks like one to watch closely having arrived from Dinamo Zagreb. Then there is young winger Carlos Borges who’s joined from Manchester City after excelling in the Premier League 2. Their latest recruit is forward Chuba Akpom from Middlesbrough, who comes off the back of winning the Championship Player of the Season and Golden Boot awards. After that glorious campaign the former Arsenal youngster will be out to show that it wasn’t an anomaly.
Ajax to score in both halves at 11/8
The Dutch giants are two games into their league campaign in the Netherlands and have picked up four points. They thumped Heracles 4-1 on the opening day and were held to a 2-2 draw at Excelsior last time out. In both these games they found the back of the net in each half, which bodes well for the first leg of this contest. There are talented players in their attacking ranks who have what it takes to get on the scoresheet in the likes of Akpom, Borges, Steven Bergwijn and Mohammed Kudus – who is also linked with a switch to West Ham.
The supporters expect Ajax to be competitive on the European stage and because the Champions League is not an option for them this year, the players will need to get them on board with glittering displays in the Europa League. So expect them to go out and put on a show here.
Ajax and both teams to score at 2/1
There is a lot to like about Ajax heading into this one with the players at their disposal and needing to deliver an exciting journey for their fans in Europe. Ludogorets are no strangers to European football themselves and they have been impressive in the earlier qualifying rounds to set up this clash. Against Astana last time out, they came from 2-1 down in opening leg to win 5-1 at home to send them through to the play-offs. When up against it they have shown that they can deliver goals, and that is something Ajax will need to be wary of.