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PAOK handed tough draw against Ajax, Olympiacos paired with Basaksehir

PAOK handed tough draw against Ajax, Olympiacos paired with Basaksehir

PAOK have been drawn against Dutch giants Ajax in the third qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League, while Olympiacos will play Basaksehir if they manage to beat Viktoria Plzen.

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Heading into Monday’s draw in Nyon, everyone wanted to avoid Ajax, but PAOK drew the short straw and have been forced to play against the Amsterdam-based club in the third qualifying round. Last season, Ajax shocked Europe by reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League, defeating Real Madrid and Juventus in the knockout stages before a heartbreaking loss to Tottenham. Their slick, exciting brand of football earned admirers across the globe.

PAOK are hoping to qualify for the group stage of the Champions League for the first time in history.

The first leg will take place in Thessaloniki on August 6/7, before the return is played at the Johan Cruijff Arena on August 13.

THE OPPONENTS

Ajax need no introduction. One of the most successful clubs in Europe, Ajax hold 34 Eredivisie titles, while winning the Champions League four times and the Dutch Cup on 19 occasions. Boasting a world-renowned academy, the Amsterdam outfit have produced several top class players over the years, and their current gifted young team enjoyed a hugely successful 2018/2019 season by claiming the Dutch double and coming within a minute of making the Champions League final. However, Ajax have parted ways with the likes of Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong this summer.

PAOK and Ajax most recently played against each other in the third qualifying round of the 2016/2017 Champions League. Initially, PAOK were in the box seat after picking up a valuable 1:1 draw on the road, but Ajax emerged victorious 2:1 in Thessaloniki to progress to the next round.

Ajax had also defeated PAOK on away goals (1:1 in Amsterdam, 3:3 in Thessaloniki) in the same stage of the Champions League in 2011.

As for their part, Olympiacos are focused on beating Viktoria Plzen in the second qualifying round, but the Erythrolefki now know that Basaksehir lie in wait if they manage to progress.

The first game will be played in Turkey on August 6/7, with Olympiacos or Viktoria Plzen hosting the decisive second match on August 13.

THE OPPONENTS

In the previous season, Basaksehir were close to winning the Turkish Super Lig, but a late collapse in form resulted in the club having to settle for second place behind champions Galatasaray. Basaksehir have rapidly improved in the last few years, and while they don’t have any European pedigree, the Turks are difficult to beat and have Brazilian veteran Robinho on their books. Experienced French full-back Gael Clichy and Barcelona flop Arda Turan also play for Basaksehir.

Full results of the 2019/2020 UEFA Champions League third qualifying round draw:

 

By: Shaun Nicolaides

Image Source: sdna.gr

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