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Davy Klaassen chipped in with 12 Eredivisie goals in 2020-21 as Ajax romped to the Dutch title
Davy Klaassen chipped in with 12 Eredivisie goals in 2020-21 as Ajax romped to the Dutch title

Ajax comfortably won the Eredivisie last season, finishing 16 points ahead of PSV Eindhoven.

They lost just two games across the campaign and were unbeaten from mid-December onwards.

De Godenzonen scored 102 goals, which were spread around the whole team, with top scorer Dusan Tadic registering just 14 league strikes all season.

They completed their domestic dominance by also winning the KNVB Cup after beating Vitesse in the final.

Ajax's Champions League group

Group C: Sporting Lisbon, Borussia Dortmund, Ajax, Besiktas

European history

Ajax have been champions of Europe four times — winning the European Cup three times in a row in the 1970s under the Total Football philosophy of manager Rinus Michels, who left the club after the first of those triumphs.

They won their fourth European title in 95 under Louis van Gaal, beating AC Milan 1-0 in the final after an 18-year-old Patrick Kluivert came off the bench to score the only goal of the game in the 85th minute.

More recently they reached the Champions League semi-final in 2018-19 and were three ahead against Tottenham with less than 40 minutes to play but ended up losing on away goals after Lucas Moura scored for Spurs in the 96th minute.

Last season, Ajax finished third in their Champions League group and reached the quarter-final of the Europa League, where they lost to Roma.

Expectations

Ajax go into this year's Champions League on the back of a dominant season in the Netherlands
Ajax go into this year's Champions League on the back of a dominant season in the Netherlands

Ajax are one of the most unpredictable sides in European football.

The season before they lost in the Champions League semi-final against Tottenham, they failed to even qualify for the Europa League — yet the year before that, they reached the final of that tournament.

De Godenzonen will be targeting a place in the knockout stages this time around and certainly have the potential to spring a few surprises against the continent’s big boys.

Star man: Dusan Tadic

Dusan Tadic contributed a remarkable 18 league assists to go alongside his 14 goals last season
Dusan Tadic contributed a remarkable 18 league assists to go alongside his 14 goals last season

Ajax captain Tadic was instrumental in their run to the semi-final of the 2018-19 Champions League, with a goal and two assists in the club’s 4-1 round of 16 win over Real Madrid at the Bernabeu.

He was named in the UEFA Champions League Squad of the Season that year and continues to be an influential presence in Amsterdam.

Tadic was also the top scorer in the 2018-19 Eredivisie with 28 league goals, and although he only managed half of that last season, he was still named Dutch Footballer of the Year.

It is quite a turnaround for the Serbia captain who previously enjoyed mixed fortunes at Southampton after signing from FC Twente for around £11million.

But ever since he returned to the Eredivisie, he has been the main man for Ajax.

One to watch: Ryan Gravenberch

Ryan Gravenberch is emerging as an important midfield option for both club and country
Ryan Gravenberch is emerging as an important midfield option for both club and country

Ryan Gravenberch made his Ajax debut in 2018 at the age of just 16, becoming the club’s youngest ever player.

He featured in almost every game last season and is already a key player at the age of just 19.

Gravenberch made his debut for the Netherlands in March this year and played for the whole 90 minutes against North Macedonia at Euro 2020.

The midfielder’s decision-making helps make Ajax’s offensive play tick and he is always looking to bring attackers into the game with forward passes whenever possible.

Last year, he won the Johan Cruyff Trophy, given to the best Eredivisie player under 21 years old, and the 6ft 3in starlet is already on the wish list of several top Premier League and LaLiga clubs.

The boss: Erik ten Hag

Ten Hag has been at Ajax since late 2017, winning both the league and the KNVB Cup in the two full seasons he has been in charge of the Dutch giants (the 2019-20 season was cancelled due to COVID-19).

He is what exactly you would expect from an Ajax coach — playing slick, attacking football with a high press.

Ten Hag has also been influenced by Pep Guardiola, who he worked under as the head coach of Bayern Munich’s second team before returning to the Netherlands to manage Utrecht.

He has been linked with several big jobs across the continent, but recently signed a new deal to keep him at Ajax until 2023.

All information correct as of Monday, Septmber 15, 2021

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10:55 (+00:00)16 Sep 2021 (Thu)