Ajax boasts mighty return – but will they continue to dominate?

Ajax have enjoyed a superb start to the new season after shrugging off the loss of key men Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong. Fans may have approached the new campaign with trepidation after captain De Ligt moved to Juventus and star midfielder De Jong completed his move to Barcelona.

Those fears could have been compounded by a shaky Champions League qualifying campaign that saw Ajax labour against unheralded opposition. However, they’ve actually made a blistering start to their defence of the Eredivisie and they sit top of their Champions League group after securing back-to-back victories.

Erik ten Hag’s men are also top of the Eredivisie after winning seven and drawing two of their opening nine games. They have banged in 29 goals in those nine matches and conceded just six, and leading sports betting sites make them the odds-on favourites to defend their crown.

Quincy Promes has slotted nicely into the midfield alongside Donny van de Beek and Hakim Ziyech, while Joel Veltman has formed a solid defensive partnership with Daley Blind. Edson Alvarez’s versatility has come in handy, and Lisandro Martinez has looked comfortable so far.

PSV always look capable of running Ajax close, but they too were weakened in the summer after top scorer Luuk de Jong moved to Sevilla. Ajax should go on to win the Eredivisie for a second consecutive season, and they could also seize another domestic double.

The big question is whether or not they can continue to flourish in Europe. They vanquished Real Madrid and Juventus en route to the semi-finals last year, and they were unlucky to lose on away goals to Tottenham after dominating the majority of the tie. Now they face the challenge of repeating that success on the continent without the services of arguably their two best players.

So far the results have been extremely positive. Ajax landed in a tricky Champions League group alongside Valencia, Chelsea and Lille, and they were not the favourites to qualify. They are now after sweeping aside Lille and Valencia in their first two games. Lille finished second in Ligue 1 last season, but they were no match for Ten Hag’s side, who romped to a 3-0 victory. Promes opened the scoring, before Alvarez doubled Ajax’s advantage after the break and Nicolas Tagliafico wrapped up a fine win.

Next up they faced a trip to the Mestalla to face Valencia, who had just beaten Premier League heavyweights Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. The scoreline was equally emphatic, as goals from Ziyech, Promes and van de Beek handed Ajax a 3-0 victory. They have looked just as impressive in midfield as they were last season, and they have been solid at the back. Dusan Tadic is yet to really get going this season, but this Ajax team is bursting with goalscorers, and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar provides another strong option in attack.

Ajax retain a strong blend of youth and experience, with relative veterans like Blind and Tadic lining up alongside precocious youngsters such as Van de Beek, David Neres, Andre Onana, Alvarez and Martinez. They are full of energy and they still play great football under Ten Hag, even with De Jong dictating play in the middle of the park. There is every chance that Ajax could go deep into the Champions League once more this season.

There are always exciting graduates coming through from the fabled youth academy, and they will be inspired to follow in the footsteps of De Ligt, De Jong and Van de Beek this season. Perr Schuurs, Sergino Dest and Dominik Kotarski are among the youngsters on the verge of a breakthrough, and Ajax have the strength in depth to thrive on multiple fronts this season.

What are your predictions for the upcoming football season? Let us know in the comments below!

Feature Image: Ungry Young Man/Flickr

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