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Tension in Amsterdam

  •  The tie in the first leg leaves everything to be resolved in tonight’s match. Doubts have entered Ajax after the game in Lisbon. Benfica arrives grown.

Ajax is facing the most important week of the season. On Sunday they host Feyenoord in the last classic of the year but their continuity in the Champions League is at stake before that. The first leg was more complicated than expected, with many doubts after the break that led to the final tie at two. Since then, Erik ten Hag’s team has been saving the matches as best they could. The last two, against the weak Cambuur and Waalwijk, won 3-2 in minutes after 90.

“It is true that this week’s games are two finals, but we face it game by game. Mainly, I worry about ourselves. We have to do some things better,” Erik ten Hag said yesterday. The most important is defensive solidity. From the day of the draw until the first leg, the scoring balance was 39-1. From the first leg to this second leg it is 9-6. To do this, Ten Hag brings back his pair of central defenders plus starting pivot this season, something that has only happened in the important 2-0 Cup semi-final win in Alkmaar. Two of them, Timber and Edson Álvarez, are warned.

The mood in Amsterdam is tense but confident against a Benfica over which they feel superior. Haller will have the incentive to regain the throne of top scorer in the Champions League after Lewandowski’s hat-trick last week.

For their part, Benfica, who arrived in the first leg in the midst of a crisis, have recovered their momentum since then, although on Friday they did not go beyond a draw against Vizela. Veríssimo still thinks the tie is 50-50 and hopes to take advantage of the Ajacied defense’s moment of weakness.

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