Whilst we barely had time to digest the painful Eredivisie start against Heracles, it’s time to shift focus to the next challenge at hand. Ajax are set to face Norwegian side Rosenborg in the first leg of Europa League play-offs at the Johan Cruijff ArenA tomorrow. How will the boys react to last weekend’s shameful display? Will they continue this downward spiral or was the loss a much needed wake-up call to ignite somewhat of a resurrection? Let’s ask the insiders!
Floris Roos – Blogger for AjaxLife
The season has only just started but the level of frustration regarding Ajax is already sky-high. After Bosz’ departure, the tragic Nouri incident, the elimination by Nice, the lack of new signings and the transfer of Sánchez nearly being done, Ajax also lost the first Eredivisie game of the season. Heracles-away did prove to be the slippery banana peel I had feared it to be.
— Heracles Almelo (@HeraclesAlmelo) 14 augustus 2017
Amidst all that chaos, Ajax is building up towards a double-header with Rosenborg BK. A physically strong and fit side who’ve already played a host of matches in the Norwegian competition. I remember the club mostly from the late 90’s. Those days, they would always be there; also in the Champions League. A lot has changed in Trondheim since those days, but the same goes for Ajax.
Rosenborg usually play an offensive-based type of football, but I expect a team staying back and awaiting possible counter-attacking possibilities in the Johan Cruyff ArenA. The recent past has taught us that Ajax is prone to be surprised by that kind of style and the Norwegians will know that they can get something by playing that way. I’m absolutely terrified of conceding one or two goals. That would give Rosenborg an immensely advantageous position for the second leg in Trondheim. Silently, I’m disappointed we play them at home first.
No, I won’t be sitting comfortably in the stands coming Thursday. There’s no reason for any of us to think about this lightly, if you have witness how relatively easy Ajax has conceded in last few games. On the flipside; if Keizer’s squad starts ticking, there could be potential for something beautiful. We have the needed quality, that’s for sure.
Menno Pot – Writer and journalist
This is a tricky one to predict, in several ways. Firstly, I don’t know Rosenborg and I have absolutely no idea how strong or weak Norwegian football is, at the moment. Secondly, there’s the state of affairs within the club. What do we have? We have Sánchez: will he play or not? (Absolutely no way, is what I would decide, no matter what). We have a team captain ánd a head coach who have almost begged the club for new players, but are facing Rosenborg with the squad that failed to qualify for the Champions League and lost the opening game of the eredivisie.
A bad result (or even a bad game) will mark the beginning of a shitstorm, an atmosphere of crisis, and everybody knows it.
For all of these reasons: I don’t expect Rosenborg to be great by any means and I’m convinced Ajax will have their standard 70% possession and a few scoring chances, but my gut feeling tells me Rosenborg will be a very tough nut to crack at this point, for an Ajax side that has trouble scoring and is vulnerable at the back. 2-0 I hope, 1-1 I fear. Come on Ajax.
Arco Gnocchi – Ajax insider
Glum, is the word that best describes my Ajax-mood at the moment. It’s heart wrenching to realize playing the Europa League final is only three matches ago. Only three matches, but it might as well have been in a different universe.
As Louis van Gaal would say, I’m very afraid we’re going into the boat against Rosenborg. I give us a whopping 10% chance to reach the group stage against an in-form, balanced team, full of Scandinavian lumberjacks. Our feeble twigs will shudder and probably ultimately break.
Although it would be Ajax-esque to suddenly come out and blow these Vikings away, but our team just simply isn’t there yet. Lord Bendtner will most certainly score at least one goal, and I see Ajax only scoring from something like a free kick, corner or on the odd chance the Norwegians suddenly decide to run into each other. As they’re missing their best central defender and their new signings will not play yet, I’m sticking to a 1-1.
Yaya – Ajax insider
The start of the new season hasn’t been anything close to what we all expected from it. An early exit from the Champions League and a 2-1 loss to Heracles in the first Eredivisie game of the season last weekend. Even though Ajax didn’t play all that bad in these three matches, they weren’t able to win a single one of them. Against Heracles, the Ajacieden had plenty of possession and created a few chances, just not very big chances. It’s hard to score more goals if you do not create a whole lot.
— AjaxDaily (@ajaxdailydotcom) 12 augustus 2017
On the other hand, this Ajax side seems seems very vulnerable to counter-attacks. Nice exploited that numerous of times, and both Heracles goals came from a quick turnover in possession. Combine that with defenders not pressing high up and midfielders allowing their direct opponents to find space, it’s a recipe for deadly chances. Maybe it was because of the absence of Davinson Sanchez, though I feel that’s not a very strong argument.
The match against Rosenborg will be very important for Ajax. It’s the only possible way for us to enjoy some European football this season. But it’s going to be a difficult game against a physically strong and defensive-minded opponent. They do not dominate possession nor do they play attractive, attacking football, but they play to get a result. Rosenborg are currently in first place in the Norwegian league, only losing 2 of the 19 matches they have already played.
Their squad is both strong and experienced with players like Bendtner, Jensen and Skjelvik (who has been linked to Ajax in the past). Normally I would expect us to beat this Rosenborg side easily at home – and I still think we should beat them – but based on our form, the lack of chances, the way we give away counter-attacks and the absence of Sanchez will make this a difficult match. I predict a 2-1 win for Ajax with goals from Dolberg and Neres.
Sjimmie – Ajax insider
Such a pivotal match for both Marcel Keizer and Ajax so early in the season. The Amsterdammers haven’t won any of the first three official games of the season, though I try to look past the results.
Against Rosenborg I expect the same team to be fielded as was the case against Heracles, though Keizer dropped a hint that he might be making a few changes. I hope that means Neres is starting on the right wing and Kluivert on the left.
Both teams tend to play in a 4-3-3 formation, but I expect Rosenborg to be the more defensive side, with their 4-3-3 turning out to be more of a 4-5-1. Their midfield is the strongest part of the team, so that will make for an interesting battle. Especially skipper Jensen is a force to be reckoned with, and just like Nice they have a true enfant terrible up front: Lord Bendtner. He scored an absolute wondergoal in the league game against Molde last weekend.
Lord Bendtner living up to the name
What a goal! pic.twitter.com/B6QXbwSrFS
— Oddschecker (@Oddschecker) 15 augustus 2017
Like I mentioned before, I think Ajax will start with the same line-up as in the previous matches. I expect Ziyech to step up his game, with him and Dolberg being the keys to victory. But what to do with Sanchez? Will he stay or will he go? Personally, I would play him, though I have no clue on what’s going on behind the scenes.
While Rosenborg are the toughest possible opponent we could have drawn, I still consider Ajax to be the clear favorite. The Norwegian do have an advantage, already having played half a season in their domestic league, but the Amsterdammers have more quality on the pitch.
I expect Rosenborg to drop deep on their own half, looking for a quick counter-attack. Let’s hope the fans can create a fantastic atmosphere yet again, and let’s win this for Nouri. My prediction: 2-0.