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Chelsea Seek Home Comfort Against Sleek Ajax

Champions League By: Iseghohi Odianosen | 05/11/2019

Chelsea hope to move closer to UEFA Champions League knock stages qualification with a win over Ajax tonight at Stamford Bridge.

Despite clocking their seventh consecutive win after last Saturday's 2-1 win at Watford, the Blues have endured nervy performances on their own turf this season.

Frank Lampard admitted yesterday that his team were expected to qualify from the group which also has Valencia whose lone goal victory on Matchday One would further fuel Ajax to go all out for three points.

Lampard: "We must understand the quality and danger of Ajax. They are such a technical team. We've shown a great reaction since losing the opening home game. As Chelsea we expect to go through, but we must have the same preparation and attitude as in the last two games."

The Dutch giants are no strangers to achieving needed results in big games away from Amsterdam, anyway. They brushed aside the duo of Real Madrid and Juventus with impressive away victories and drew at Bayern in an amazing run to reach the semi-finals of last season's competition.

Though they've lost inspirational duo of Math De Ligt and Frenkie De Jong, they still have the quintet of Dusan Tadic, Hakim Ziyech, Daley Blind, David Neres and Donny van de Beek all of whom were involved against Chelsea a fortnight ago.

Lampard is aware his side's expectation level has risen since then, and he would be hoping they find their groove at home in a big game this time around after some disappointing strings of results including defeats against Liverpool and Manchester United.

Midfield Conundrum

N'golo Kante's availability has thrown up a bit of selection dilemma for the Blues boss. The trio of Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic and Mason Mount have enjoyed a bit of symmetry in the transition while Christian Pulisic has forced his way into a regular place on the left of Chelsea's attack.

Will Lampard, who was brave with a 4-3-3 approach in Amsterdam, retain his three on-form midfielders or take another gamble on Kante's fitness knowing Ajax are not likely to sit back as Valencia did in their opening group game?

Both Jorginho and Kovacic have been exciting this season, playing amazing roles as leaders in a Blues side that seem to be enjoying football a lot more this season. They must, however, raise their level in the biggest games like tonight if Chelsea is to continue doing well.

Twice inside the opening half in Amsterdam-the first in the second minute-both players allowed Ajax to run off them and create problems for Chelsea defence. It took an awesome block from Cesar Azpilicueta to prevent Quincy Promise from a 40th minute after right-back found space behind Jorginho to set up the winger. 

What happens when -the controller- is again man-marked to deny Chelsea transition fluidity? It works that's another question for Lampard to figure out as he mulls his tactics.

Alonso Or Emerson

Lampard also has to decide if Emerson, just back from injury, is ready to start another game after playing 90mins against Watford.

Alonso's defensive uncertainty often invites intervention from Fikayo Tomori whose pace has been crucial to protect the left side of the Chelsea defence and could fancy his chance against the Spaniard tonight.

The two teams are on six points, and a victory for Chelsea at home would enhance their chances of winning the group, especially with a difficult trip to Valencia still ahead of them. 

Ajax manager, Ten Hag suggests Chelsea are one of the favourites to win the Champions League despite their transfer but Lampard knows the Dutch side can spoil the fun at the Bridge if his boys are not up for the battle tonight. 

By Semiu Osho
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