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Preview: Ajax vs. FC Utrecht – prediction, team news, lineups



Sports Mole previews Sunday’s Eredivisie clash between Ajax and FC Utrecht, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Ajax play host to FC Utrecht in desperate need of starting a winning run in Eredivisie to stay in contention with the top four in the standings.

At a time when the Dutch giants sit six points adrift of that position, Utrecht are eighth and just four points off their hosts on Sunday.

Match preview

© Reuters

There used to be a time when the Ajax job was viewed as one of the easiest of the major European teams, but now that could not be further from the truth as they continue to fall from grace.

Last week’s 2-0 defeat at AZ Alkmaar left John Van’t Schip‘s side a massive 11 points adrift of third position, and six points behind their fourth-placed opponents from their most recent outing.

Champions League football is already out of the question for a team that has now failed to win in four league games, even though the setback at AZ represented the first time in 18 league fixtures where they had failed to score a goal.

With 11 contests remaining, Ajax need to get back on track as soon as possible if they are to have any ambitions of featuring in the Europa League in 2024-25.

Those chances could improve if they have a prolonged run in the Europa Conference League, yet they are currently preparing for a last-16 showdown with favourites Aston Villa.

In the short term, Van’t Schip can only focus on trying to defeat a Utrecht side that have been sensational in the Dutch top flight since the middle of October.

Having opened up with seven defeats in eight outings, Utrecht have, rather unbelievably, gone 15 matches without defeat in the Eredivisie, moving them to within touching distance of Ajax.

Four successive wins were posted in February, including a 1-0 victory at third-placed FC Twente, and they travel to Ajax on the back of three clean sheets.

Ron Jans is already in the running for manager of the year, but his team will put themselves in contention for a surprise European place if they can overcome Ajax on Sunday, a team that they beat 4-3 to kick off their prolonged unbeaten run.

Ajax Eredivisie form:

Ajax form (all competitions):

FC Utrecht Eredivisie form:

Team News

Ajax's Jordan Henderson applauds fans after the match on February 4, 2024© Reuters

With Anton Gaaei being forced off injured last weekend, Van’t Schip must decide whether to stick with the back three that he tried against AZ.

Devyne Rensch could move out to wing-back to allow Ahmetcan Kaplan to make his first Eredivisie start of the season in the centre.

Chuba Akpom can also expect to earn a start in the final third, but it remains to be seen whether Jordan Henderson will return to the squad after not featuring since February 18.

Victor Jensen should return to the Utrecht XI after scoring the only goal of the game against Heracles as a substitute.

Jens Toornstra faces dropping down to the substitutes’ bench in what could plausibly be the only change to the starting lineup.

Ajax possible starting lineup:
Ramaj; Kaplan, Sutalo, Hato; Rensch, Taylor, Van den Boomen, Sosa; Hlynsson, Akpom; Brobbey

FC Utrecht possible starting lineup:
Branderhorst; Ter Avest, Van der Hoorn, Viergever, Karouani; Flamingo, Fraulo; Azarkan, Jensen, Boussaid; Lammers

SM words green background

We say: Ajax 3-2 FC Utrecht

This has traditionally been viewed as a likely home win given the gulf in class between the sides, yet a potential thriller could play out on this occasion.

No-one would be surprised if Utrecht ran out winners in Amsterdam, but we are going to give the benefit of the doubt to Ajax in a high-scoring game.

For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.

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