PAOK looking to create famous European night in Amsterdam
UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE - 3rd QUALIFYING ROUND (Leg 2)
PAOK face an uphill battle in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round against Ajax in Amsterdam. AGONAsport’s Athan Stylos previews the encounter.
Following a 2:2 draw at the Toumba Stadium last week, PAOK require a shock result to make the Champions League playoff round, where the winner will meet either APOEL or Qarabag for a spot in the group stages of Europe’s most prestigious competition. PAOK have the goal of qualification to the group stages, after falling at the final hurdle last season in the playoffs against Benfica.
The Greek champions must win or secure a high-scoring draw on Tuesday night in order for the Dikefalos tou Vorra to advance in Amsterdam. If the game ends level at 1:1, Ajax will progress on the away goals rule, and the same will apply for PAOK in the event the score is 3:3 or higher. 2:2 results in extra time.
It would be a famous night in PAOK’s history if they overcome the powerhouse from Amsterdam to reach the playoff round. PAOK must take confidence from last week’s result, causing trouble on the break against a quality Ajax outfit:
Ajax have started their league campaign with four points from two matches in the Eredivisie. At the weekend, the Dutch champions comfortably defeated FC Emmen 5:0 at home, with goals from Donny van de Beek, Hakim Ziyech, Dusan Tadic and a brace from Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. A dominant Ajax team held 60% possession and unleashed 32 shots:
Boasting a rich history in the UEFA Champions League, Ajax will be hoping to take their chances early in the second leg to put the tie beyond the Greeks. It’s expected that Ajax will be on the front foot dominating possession, but on the counterattack, PAOK will be searching to create opportunities.
TEAM NEWS: AJAX
At the weekend, first choice right-back Noussair Mazraoui suffered a muscular injury against Emmen, and he could miss this match. Joel Veltman is expected to replace Mazraoui on Tuesday. After coming back to pre-season late after the Copa America, David Neres returned to Ajax’s starting eleven over the weekend in the Eredivisie, and he will start against PAOK.
Possible line-up: Onana, Veltman, Schuurs, Martinez, Tagliafico, Marin, Blind, van de Beek, Ziyech, Neres, Tadic.
TEAM NEWS: PAOK
It is expected that Abel Ferreira will go in with the same starting eleven that took on Ajax last week. With the Greek Super League having not commenced yet, the squad is fully fit and focused on qualifying for the Champions League playoffs. Abel Ferreira will most likely set-up PAOK to play in a 4-4-2 formation, with Anderson Esiti and Omar El Kaddouri as the two central midfielders. Dimitris Pelkas and Chuba Akpom will lead the line for the Dikefalos tou Vorra.
Possible line-up: Paschalakis, Matos, Varela, Crespo, Giannoulis, Esiti, El Kaddouri, Jaba, Biseswar, Pelkas, Akpom.
REFEREE: CRAIG PAWSON (ENG)
Englishman Craig Pawson is the referee for the duel in Amsterdam. The 40-year old became an English Premier League referee in 2013, before also being promoted to be on the FIFA International Referees List in 2015. Since then, Pawson has officiated international fixtures, as well as Champions League and UEFA Europa League matches. This will be the fourth time when Pawson has been in charge of a UEFA Champions League fixture.
Referee: Craig Pawson (ENG)
Assistant referees: Lee Betts (ENG), Ian Hussin (ENG)
Fourth official: Andrew Madley (ENG)
WHERE TO WATCH
Watch the match live on Go Greek TV!