What: UEFA Champions League – Group D
Who: Real Madrid vs Ajax
When: Tuesday 4th December, 2012, at 19:45 UK time
Where: Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain
Ending the Group Stage
Real Madrid’s meeting with Ajax at the Bernabeu will be nothing more than a meaningless fixture for the home side. Having already guaranteed qualification to the Round of 16 with a draw against Manchester City a fortnight ago, Jose Mourinho can afford to rest some of his key players for this one as his team are numerically out of Ajax’s reach.
Los Merengues’ last league game against second-placed Atletico Madrid was a must win for the home side, at the risk of increasing the gap between them and second-placed Atletico. In the end, Real Madrid managed to keep their streak alive in the Derbi Madrileno with a 2-0 victory over Diego Simeone’s men.
In Europe, despite having already guaranteed progression for the next round of the Champions League, Sergio Ramos stated that Los Blancos will still go for the win against Ajax.
“We have a great amount of respect for the Champions League and although we have already qualified we will play to win. Whoever plays will go for the win”, declared the vice-captain.
Europa League Hopes
Occupying third place in this year’s “group of death”, Ajax will hope to keep bottom-placed Manchester City at bay with a good result against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu. As a matter of fact, only a win absolutely guarantees Ajax Europa League football, with the Citizens being just a point behind with one game to go. However, recent history does not favour the Dutch side.
The reigning Dutch champions have been pitted in the same group as Real Madrid for the third year-running now. However, in the all of the matches they have disputed in this timeframe, the four-time Champions League winners never managed to overcome their adversaries, even on home soil in Amsterdam. Furthermore, Ajax have not won in their last five visits to Spain, with four of those being defeats.
Should Ajax want to have any realistic hope of winning this one, they will need to outmuscle and outplay Real Madrid’s midfield, who have shown vulnerability at certain times this season.
Real Betis 1-0 Real Madrid (24/11; La Liga)
Real Madrid 3-0 CD Alcoyano (27/11; Copa del Rey)
Real Madrid 2-0 Atletico Madrid (01/12; La Liga)
Ajax 1-4 Borussia Dortmund (21/11; Champions League)
Roda 1-2 Ajax (25/11; Eredivisie)
Ajax 3-1 PSV Eindhoven (01/12; Eredivisie)
Real Madrid: Raul Albiol; Michael Essien; Gonzalo Higuain; Marcelo; Alvaro Arbeloa (suspended)
Ajax: Ryan Babel; Thulani Sereno; Kolbeinn Sigthorsson
Players to watch
Real Madrid – Raphael Varane: With Arbeloa suspended for this, Ramos will likely revert to right-back, allowing Varane to partner Pepe in the heart of defence. The tall Frenchman has shown great signs of maturity so far and will want to increase the hype surrounding him even more.
Ajax – Siem de Jong: The Dutchman showed his stripes against Manchester City, scoring three goals against the English champions in both home and away legs. With their continental future for this season on the line, the captain will need to lead by example in the hope of making it a memorable night for his side.
This game is largely meaningless for Real Madrid and Mourinho will be tempted to field some of his fringe players. Ajax will look for the win, and may not be as cautious as usual at the back, leaving them vulnerable to Real Madrid’s counter-attacks. Real Madrid 2-0 Ajax.
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