Bayern’s next CL opponents Ajax

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On Tuesday night, FC Bayern entertain Dutch league runners-up Ajax in the first home game of the new Champions League group stage. The two teams have faced each other eight times and the record to date could not be more evenly balanced with three wins each and two draws. The last game between the two teams was in the group stage in 2004. A 4-0 home win for Bayern was followed by a 2-2 draw in Amsterdam. fcbayern.com introduces the next opponents for FCB.

Record champions, record cup winners, European Cup winners – Ajax have become the most successful club in the Netherlands both on the domestic and international stages since their foundation in 1883. With 33 league titles and 18 cup triumphs, Ajax are the undisputed number one ahead of great rivals PSV Eindhoven (24/9) and Feyenoord (15/13). However, the last top-flight title wins are quite a while ago. The previous number one finish in the Eredivisie was in 2014 (after a run of three title wins in succession) and the last Dutch cup win for Ajax was in 2010.

The first great successful era for Ajax was in the late 60s and the 70s where the team including Johan Cruyff, Johan Neeskens and Aria Haan won title after title. That included three successive triumphs in the European Cup (1971 to 73) where Ajax secured their position as a top European club. After Cruyff left the club in 1973 for Barcelona, the run of wins stopped particularly in European club competition. Only the return of Cruyff as coach in 1985 saw a revival. In 1987, Ajax won the European Cup Winners Cup with players like Jan Wouters, Frank Rijkaard and Marco van Basten.

With the appointment of Louis van Gaal as the new coach, Ajax started their second most successful era in 1991. Under the former Bayern coach, the club won the UEFA Cup (1992) and the Champions League (1995). Ajax beat FC Bayern 5-2 on aggregate in the semi-finals. Ajax, along with FCB, Juventus, Manchester United and Chelsea, are one of just five clubs to have won all three European competitions. The international collection of trophies is completed with two Club World Cups (1972 and 1995) for the club renowned for its excellent youth development work. Famous players Dennis Bergkamp, Clarence Seedorf, Patrick Kluivert, Edgar Davids all emerged from the club's academy. After the dawn of the new millennium, success has been harder to find for Ajax with 'only' six league titles and four cup wins under 14 different coaches since 2000. The most successful and long lasting of them was Frank de Boer who won four league titles in his six years at the helm.

CL record:
In the all-time table of Europe's premier club competition, Ajax are sixteenth with 148 points from 103 games (including the European Cup in eleventh place) and with four titles amongst most successful clubs in the competition. After a break of four years, Ajax return to the Champions League for the fourteenth time in the Champions League as they go in search of better performances than in 2012/13 and 2013/14 when the Dutch side finished third in the group stage each time. In the following seasons, Ajax were unable to make it past the Champions League qualifiers. This season they reached the group stage with wins against Sturm Graz, Standard Liege and Dynamo Kiev.

Ajax play their home games at the Amsterdam Arena, opened in 1996, which was renamed the Johan Cruijff ArenA in the summer of 2018 in memory of the club legend who passed away two years before. The Johan Cruijff ArenA a was the first European venue to have a closable roof and when it was opened it was considered to be the most modern football stadium in Europe.

Since December 2017, a former friend of FC Bayern has held the reins at Ajax. Erik ten Hag, coach of the FC Bayern Reserves from 2013 to 2015, took over as successor to the hapless Marcel Keizer before the start of the year. For the two and a half years before that, ten Hag was the coach at FC Utrecht where he led the team to fifth and fourth place finishes in the Eredivisie. Ten Hag usually opts for the classical Dutch 4-3-3 formation, which saw Ajax win their biggest titles.

Key players:

With a mix of established players and freewheeling youngsters, Ajax are looking forward to follow on from past successes this season. The 35-year-old Jan Klaas Huntelaar is probably the most internationally well-known and experienced player in the squad. Alongside the former Schalke player, the Dane Lasse Schöne (32), the Argentinian Nicolas Tagliafico (26) and the two new signings Dailey Blind (28/from Manchester United) and Dusan Tadic (28/from FC Southampton) join the established set-up at Ajax, which is completed with numerous highly talented players like Matthijs de Ligt (19), Donny van de Beek (21), Frenkie de Jong (21) and Kasper Dolberg (20).

Current state of play:
Ajax started the season as runners-up. Last term they finished four points behind great rivals PSV Eindhoven. After seven matches this season, Ajax are already five points behind the PSV the team coached by Mark van Bommel who clocked up a convincing 3-0 win in the meeting between the two sides a week ago. On Saturday night, Ajax earned a 2-0 away win at Fortuna Sittard and are now second in the table with five wins, one draw and one defeat. The Champions League campaign started well for the ten Hag team with a clear 3-0 home win against AEK Athens and they top the table ahead of the game in Munich.

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