Ajax vs Dynamo Kyiv – Wednesday, August 22, 20:00 BST/21:00 CEST – Amsterdam Arena, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Two giants of European football will clash on Wednesday to determine one of the three final spots in the UEFA Champions League group stage. Four times UEFA Champions League winners Amsterdam will face two times UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup winners Dynamo Kyiv.
Ajax qualified for this stage after finishing second in the Dutch Eredivisie last season behind eternal rivals PSV. The 33-times Dutch Eredivisie champions then eliminated Sturm Graz (5-1 on aggregate) in the second round of Champions League qualifying as well as Standard Liege (5-2 on aggregate) in the third round of UEFA Champions League qualifying to reach the playoffs.
The biggest club in the Netherlands Ajax, like the entire football country, have somewhat lost their shine in recent decades. A titan of a club in the 1970s, 80s and 90s the globalisation of world football has not been kind to the club.
Nowadays Dutch football, in general, and Ajax, in particular, merely exist to produce talent for the big European clubs in Spain, England, Italy and Germany. As a result, the Netherlands have failed to reach the 2016 Euros and the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Ajax, in the meantime, may have reached the final of the 2016/17 UEFA Europa League but at the same time have failed to reach the group stage of the Champions League in three successive seasons. Champions League football, however, is the only mechanism that allows a club like Ajax to keep its best players for more than a handful of seasons.
The current crop is once again promising with the likes of Matthijs de Ligt, David Neres, Kasper Dolberg, Frenkie de Jong and André Onana already in the notebooks of Europe’s biggest clubs. For Ajax failure to reach the group stage could mean that some of those players will be off as early as this summer as the transfer window remains open in Germany until after Champions League qualification is complete.
Meanwhile, losing their biggest talent will be no problem for Dynamo Kyiv this summer. The Ukrainian giants have completed a massive rebuild this summer that saw the club spending significant sums on new players for the first time since 2014 – when the conflict in the Donbass significantly begun to hamper investment in Ukrainian football.
Using the money earned from the sale of Andriy Yarmolenko Dynamo signed among others three Brazilians, Tchê Tchê (Palmeiras), Sidcley (Paranaense) and Victor Bueno (Santos), as well as super talent Vladyslav Supriaha (Dnipro-1).
With those new players, Dynamo hope to wrestle away the Ukrainian title from rivals Shakhtar Donetsk, who have won the title two times in a row under head coach Paulo Fonseca. But perhaps of investing plenty of money Dynamo may have been better off focusing on football and staying out of politics.
After all, it was three points lost from refusing to travel to Mariupol for an away game that cost Dynamo the decisive three points in the title race. It is a mistake that is unlikely to be repeated this season and with Dynamo having won four out of four games in the Ukrainian Premier League, including the derby against Shakhtar, the team coached by Aleksandr Khatskevich are in excellent form.
It is the sort of form that could be enough to get a good result in the Netherlands. The game on Wednesday will be very much a 50/50 affair in which Dynamo could get an important draw that would set the Ukrainians up nicely for the return leg.
Ajax vs Dynamo Kyiv – Players to look out for:
Matthijs de Ligt #4 – Ajax
The 19-year-old centre-back Matthijs de Ligt is the face of this Ajax Amsterdam side. Captaining the team the 188cm tall defender could be seen celebrating with the fans following his club’s win in the Champions League third round qualifiers against Standard Liege. A natural leader de Ligt hardly ever shows his young age on the pitch. It is one of the reasons why he is the number one transfer target among many European top clubs looking to add more depth in defence.
Viktor Tsygankov #15 – Dynamo Kyiv
Despite adding Vladyslav Supriaha from Dnipro-1, the striker will miss this match with an injury, Viktor Tsygankov remains Dynamo’s biggest talent. The winger was supposed to be rested in Dynamo’s Ukrainian Premier League match on the weekend against Oleksandriya. But with his club struggling in the first half Khatskevich decided to bring on Tsygankov in the second half, and the winger would have the necessary impact scoring the winner in the 68′ minute.
Ajax vs Dynamo Kyiv – Match Stats
- Dutch runners-up v Ukrainian runners-up
- Ajax beat Dynamo 3-2 on aggregate in 2010/11 play-offs
- Last UEFA Champions League group stage: Ajax 2014/15, Dynamo 2016/17
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Ajax vs Dynamo Kyiv – 1-1
Ajax vs Dynamo Kyiv – Lineups
Onana – Tagliafico, Blind, de Ligt, Mazraoui – de Jong, Tadić, Schöne – Labyad, Huntelaar, Ziyech
Head Coach: Erik ten Hag
Boyko – Pivarić, Kádár, Shabanovm Kedziora – Buyalsky, Tchê Tchê – Verbić, Andrievsky, Tsygankov – Besiedin
Head Coach: Aleksandr Khatskevich
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others works for the Bundesliga and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.