Ajax vs Juventus preview: Cristiano Ronaldo to return
The Portuguese forward has missed the last two weeks due to a thigh strain sustained on international duty
Last Updated: 10/04/19 4:03pm
Cristiano Ronaldo looks set to feature for Juventus in their Champions League quarter-final first-leg clash away to Ajax on Wednesday (kick-off 8pm).
After finishing runners-up twice in the last four years, the Italian champions signed Ronaldo, who helped Real Madrid to the title in four of the past five seasons.
The Portuguese forward showed his value by scoring a hat-trick against Atletico Madrid in the last 16, almost single-handedly overturning a first-leg deficit.
However, he has been out for the last two weeks with a thigh strain, sustained while on international duty with Portugal.
Ajax also produced a memorable comeback in the previous round, overturning a 2-1 loss at home to Real Madrid with a 4-1 victory to reach the quarter-finals for the first time in 16 years.
Ajax head coach Erik ten Hag said: "Juventus are an experienced team, and can put different strategies into play.
"It is another big obstacle to overcome after Bayern and Real. We will play as we usually do and we will have to be good at reading the game."
While Juventus will be buoyed by the returning Ronaldo, one player who has shone in his absence may find himself left on the bench.
Despite Italian forward Moise Kean scoring seven goals in his last eight games for club and country, Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri has hinted he could be an option off the bench.
"We need to leave him space to grow," Allegri said. "The substitutes are important, as we've already seen."
Meanwhile, Ajax have no new injury concerns with Hassan Bande and Carel Eiting long term absentees.
- Ajax and Juventus will be facing for the ninth time in the European Cup/Champions League and for the first time since November 2004. The Dutch side have not beaten the Italians in the competition since winning the 1973 European Cup final in Belgrade (1-0).
- Juventus are unbeaten in each of their last nine European matches against Ajax (W5 D4), including a draw in the 1996 Champions League final before going on to lift the trophy thanks to a penalty shoot-out victory.
- Ajax are the first Dutch side to reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League since PSV did so back in 2006/07. Indeed, Ajax find themselves at this stage for the first time since 2002/03, when they were eliminated by AC Milan.
- Ajax (24y 202d) have had a younger starting XI on average in the Champions League this season than any other side left in the competition.
- Only Lionel Messi (11) has had a direct hand in more goals in this season's Champions League than Ajax's Dusan Tadic (nine - six goals, three assists).
"I am not sure whether Ronaldo will be fit, he was rested at the weekend. If he doesn't start, it is a big opportunity for Ajax.
Juventus are robust and like a physical contest whereas Ajax are creative and energetic. Tadic is the more experienced player in this team and he has been performing great.
Both teams will score and I think Ajax will edge it."