Ajax vs Benfica Champions League round of 16 preview: Where to watch, predicted line-ups, squad changes
What happened in the first leg?
Competition top scorer Sébastien Haller scored at both ends in a pulsating first leg. It was Haller’s strike partner Dušan Tadić who had broken the deadlock just eight minutes prior to the man of the moment turning into his own net. Haller tucked in to restore the visitors’ lead, but substitute Roman Yaremchuk headed in on the rebound to restore parity.Information Guide Nigeria
Ajax: Onana; Rensch, Schuurs, Martínez, Blind; Edson Álvarez, Berghuis, Gravenberch; Antony, Haller, Tadić
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Benfica: Vlachodimos; Gilberto, Otamendi, Vertonghen, Grimaldo; Weigl, Taarabt; Everton, Gonçalo Ramos, Rafa Silva, Darwin Núñez
Away goals rule abolished
There has been a rule change for 2021/22: ties level after the second leg will go to extra time and a penalty shoot-out if required, irrespective of the number of away goals a team has scored.
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Since first leg (all competitions, most recent first): WWWL
Where they stand: 1st in Eredivisie, Dutch Cup final
Since first leg: DWW
Where they stand: 3rd in Portuguese Liga, League Cup runners-up
Derek Brookman, Ajax reporter
After conceding only five goals in 23 Eredivisie matches until February 27, the Dutch champions have let in two in each of their last two league games. In doing so, they lost to 11th-placed Go Ahead Eagles, and needed a last-minute Tadić penalty to defeat 15th-placed RKC. Ajax have frequently struggled against ‘lesser’ teams this season, but have generally been able to raise their game when the stakes are high – which they most certainly are when Benfica visit.JAMB Result
Carlos Machado, Benfica reporter
Benfica surprised many – perhaps even Ajax – by securing a 2-2 draw in the first leg to leave this tie in the balance. The Eagles capitalised well on spaces Ajax left at the back and they will look to do that again against opponents unlikely to change their style of play. However, the Dutch hopefuls were also given an insight into Benfica’s weaknesses – particularly the space between their lines and problems building from the back – and will surely press the visitors close to Odisseas Vlachodimos’s goal.
What the coaches say
Erik ten Hag, Ajax coach: “If you look at it in terms of our goals, you can say that our Champions League campaign has already been successful, but as a sportsman you naturally want to get the most out of it. We face a major challenge to deliver. We want to get as far as possible and that starts with beating Benfica.”
Nélson Veríssimo, Benfica coach: “We have to be at a high level to get past the difficult obstacle that is Ajax. But we believe – as I said ahead of the first game, which probably a lot of people didn’t believe – that this tie is 50/50. Ajax will have to respect us, we will respect Ajax, and then it’s a game of cat and mouse, figuring out where the weak points are and how to exploit space.”
When is the Champions League quarter-final draw?
The 2021/22 UEFA Champions League quarter-final, semi-final and final draws take place on Friday 18 March.
The draw will begin at midday CET at the House of European Football in Nyon, Switzerland.
The draws are open, so there is no seeding or country protection. Any team can be drawn against any other team.
The 2022 Champions League final takes place at the Stade de France in Paris on Saturday 28 May.
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