Real Madrid - Ajax Preview: Frank de Boer's side look to clinch Europa League spot
Jose Mourinho's men have already booked their place in the last 16 and have secured second place, and face the Eredivisie champions who are fighting to stay in Europe
By Martin Macdonald
Ramos, Varane, Pepe, Coentrao
Callejon, Kaka, Ronaldo
Van Rhijn, Alderweireld, Moisander, Blind
Poulsen, Enoh, Eriksen
De Jong, Boerrigter
Jose Mourinho goes into the match knowing that their second place finish in Group D is secured. Due to their head-to-head results with Borussia Dortmund they cannot win the group, so the Real Madrid coach may opt to freshen up his starting XI.
It is unlikely to be a complete overhaul, but Raphael Varane has been impressive in his rare appearances this season, and may be given a starting berth at the back due to Alvaro Arbeloa's suspension. Sergio Ramos could be shifted out to right-back.
Xabi Alonso has been playing a lot of football recently and may be allowed to sit this one out, with Luka Modric ready to drop back into the deeper role in midfield.
Despite resting some faces, Mourinho will still want to end the Group Stage on a high, so expect big hitters Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema to still feature.
Ajax, on the other hand, have plenty to play for. The Eredivisie champions are placed third in the group and find themselves one point ahead of Manchester City, and with a place in the Europa League up for grabs, they will need to put in a good performance at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Ryan Babel is still sidelined with a dislocated shoulder, so there could be a chance in attack for Danny Hoesen, who scored in Ajax's 3-1 victory over PSV at the weekend.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- These two sides have met five times in the past three seasons and Madrid have won each game, most recently a 4-1 victory in Amsterdam in October.
- Real Madrid's seven-game winning streak at home in the Champions League was ended by a 2-2 draw with Dortmund on matchday four.
- Los Blancos' home record against teams from the Netherlands is W9 D1 L2.
- Ajax have failed to win on any of their last five visits to Spain, losing four. Their last success was a 3-2 victory at Atletico Madrid in the 1996/97 season.
- During four years as a Barcelona player between 1999 and 2003, Ajax coach Frank de Boer faced Madrid nine times in the Liga and the Champions League.
- De Boer played under Madrid coach Jose Mourinho at Barcelona. The Portuguese was assistant to Louis van Gaal in the year 2000.
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Top 3 Predictions
Real Madrid CF 4-0 Ajax
- 18.63 %
Real Madrid CF 3-0 Ajax
- 13.31 %
Real Madrid CF 3-1 Ajax
- 11.31 %
|UEFA Champions League (UCL)||Dec 4, 2012||Real Madrid CF 4 - Ajax 1|
|UEFA Champions League (UCL)||Oct 3, 2012||Ajax 1 - Real Madrid CF 4|
|UEFA Champions League (UCL)||Dec 7, 2011||Ajax 0 - Real Madrid CF 3|
|UEFA Champions League (UCL)||Sep 27, 2011||Real Madrid CF 3 - Ajax 0|
|UEFA Champions League (UCL)||Nov 23, 2010||Ajax 0 - Real Madrid CF 4|
|Real Madrid CF|
|Dec 7, 2013||CD Olímpic de Xàtiva 0 - Real Madrid CF 0||ESPC|
|Nov 30, 2013||Real Madrid CF 4 - Valladolid 0||LIGA|
|Nov 27, 2013||Real Madrid CF 4 - Galatasaray 1||UCL|
|Nov 23, 2013||Almeria 0 - Real Madrid CF 5||LIGA|
|Nov 9, 2013||Real Madrid CF 5 - Real Sociedad 1||LIGA|
|22||Ángel Di María||Midfielder|
|34||Ricardo van Rhijn||Defender|
|10||Siem de Jong||Midfielder|
With Madrid already qualified, it is likely Ronaldo will aim to take on Ajax and look to swell his Champions League tally. With the Ballon d'Or votes coming up soon, he will want to impress on Europe's biggest stage.
The young midfielder has been one of Ajax's outstanding players in the Champions League so far this season and they will need to rely on him to provide creativity from the midfield. If he can play in a more advanced role and link up with the attackers, there is every chance Ajax could grab a goal.
Ajax are going head-to-head with Manchester City for the Europa League place in the group, while Jose Mourinho's side have little to play for. However, the Eredivisie champions do not travel well in Spain, and the firepower of Madrid will be too much for them to handle.