Big Ajax test for Chelsea

CHELSEA beat a stubborn Newcastle United outfit 1-0 last time courtesy of Marcos Alonso and will hope to extend their winning run to six games when they visit Ajax in the Champions League.

Ajax, however, are top of both Group H and the Eredivisie, having not lost a game all season and winning both their Champions League games so far by a comfortable 3-0 scoreline.

Chelsea’s season started poorly under Lampard, with just two wins from their opening six Premier League games. However, they have since turned things around, winning their last three on the bounce in the competition.

The Blues have also tightened up a little defensively, recording their first two clean sheets of the season in this winning run – although both came at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea’s recent good form has been enough to elevate them into fourth in the league, although fifth-placed Arsenal have a game in hand on them and are just two points behind.

Lampard’s side started their Champions League campaign in stuttering fashion, however, slipping to a 1-0 defeat at home to Valencia, who have had a mixed start of their own in La Liga.

The same cannot be said of Ajax, who have been excellent once again this season after their surprise run to the semi-finals of Europe’s premier club competition last season.

The reigning Eredivisie champions sit atop the league once again and have won eight and drawn two of their first 10 games, staving off competition from title rivals PSV.

Ajax have also started with a bang in Europe, recording back-to-back 3-0 victories in their first two encounters to surge to the summit of Group H.

Chelsea have a real task on their hands to secure top spot against a side in such strong form and will hope to be the first team to beat the Dutch outfit this term when they visit the Johan Cruijff Arena.

Lampard has a number of injuries that will likely force his hand when it comes to team selection today.

Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger’s enforced absences mean that Kurt Zouma and Fikayo Tomori will play at centre-back, while there are also doubts over full-backs Emerson Palmieri and Cesar Azpilicueta.

Alonso scored the winner at the weekend but Reece James has started just twice – neither in the Premier League – and could be thrust in at the deep end against in-form Ajax winger Quincy Promes.

Ross Barkley limped off against Newcastle to join N’Golo Kante, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Marco van Ginkel as injured Blues midfielders, meaning Mateo Kovacic is likely to take the Englishman’s place alongside Mason Mount and Jorginho in the centre of the park.

Erik ten Hag, on the other hand, has a fully-fit Ajax squad to choose from when Chelsea visit the Johan Cruijff Arena. – SportsMole

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