Ajax seek cure for Spanish hoodoo as Barça visit
AFC Ajax need to end a dismal run against Spanish opponents when FC Barcelona come to town if they are to keep their UEFA Champions League ambitions alive. FC Barcelona may have already qualified for the UEFA Champions League knockout stage for the tenth year running, but for AFC Ajax there is still everything to play for when the teams meet in Amsterdam on matchday five.
• Ajax stayed in the race for qualification by beating Celtic FC last time out and they enter the meeting with Barcelona third in Group H but aware that a victory would lift them up to second should AC Milan falter at Celtic Park. Should Ajax lose and Milan win, though, the Dutch champions would be eliminated.
• As for Gerardo Martino’s Barcelona, they know that a repeat of their matchday one home victory over Ajax – or even a draw – would guarantee them first place in the group, whatever the result in Glasgow.
• Ajax are looking to end a dismal run of nine straight defeats against Spanish opposition. In each of the past three seasons they lost home and away to Real Madrid CF in the group stage – suffering a trio of heavy home losses (1-4 in 2012/13, 0-3 in 2011/12 and 0-4 in 2010/11).
• Overall Ajax have lost their last four home games against Spanish visitors, with their last victory coming against RC Celta de Vigo in the 2003/04 UEFA Champions League group stage, Zlatan Ibrahimović the scorer.
• Ajax’s complete home record against Spanish opposition is W8 D3 L5.
• Barcelona are making their first visit to the Netherlands since the 1997/98 group stage and a 2-2 draw at PSV Eindhoven. It was also at PSV that they last won on Dutch soil, Sergi Barjuán hitting the 78th-minute goal that earned a 3-2 victory on the night and 5-4 aggregate success in the 1995/96 UEFA Cup quarter-finals.
• The Blaugrana’s overall record away to Dutch clubs is W2 D3 L1.
• This is Barcelona’s first visit to Amsterdam for a competitive fixture – a surprise considering the connections between two clubs with a famous link in the iconic figure of Johan Cruyff, who won the European Cup three times with Ajax as a player before coaching Barcelona to their first title in 1992. Ajax coach Frank de Boer is another man to have played for both clubs, having represented Barcelona between 1999 and 2003.
• Ajax have hosted Barcelona in a series of friendly matches down the years:
1960: Ajax 3-4 Barcelona
1975: Ajax 3-1 Barcelona
1993: Ajax 2-4 Barcelona
1999: Ajax 2-2 Barcelona
2002: Ajax 4-3 Barcelona
• Barcelona lifted the 1996/97 European Cup Winners’ Cup after a 1-0 victory over Paris Saint-Germain at De Kuip stadium in Rotterdam. At the same venue they had lost the 1990/91 final 2-1 to Manchester United FC.
• As a Barcelona player, De Boer won the Spanish league title in 1999 alongside twin brother Ronald.
• De Boer played – brother Ronald scoring – when Ajax won 3-2 at Club Atlético de Madrid in the 1996/97 UEFA Champions League quarter-finals to secure a 4-3 aggregate success.
• De Boer scored twice against Spain as a Netherlands player, hitting the winner in a 2-1 friendly victory on the night Carles Puyol made his international debut in November 2000. He later got the only goal when the Oranje beat Spain in another friendly in March 2002, with Puyol once more in opposition.
• De Boer was an assistant coach of the Netherlands team beaten 1-0 in the 2010 FIFA World Cup final by a goal from Andrés Iniesta.
• Bojan Krkić scored 26 times in 104 Liga appearances for Barcelona between 2007 and 2011.
• In two seasons with Sevilla FC between 2006 and 2008 Christian Poulsen came up against Barcelona six times, winning once.
• As an Arsenal FC player, Cesc Fàbregas faced Ajax in the 2005/06 group stage, winning 2-1 in Amsterdam in September 2005 and drawing 0-0 in London three months later. The following season he was in the Arsenal side eliminated on away goals by PSV in the round of 16. Javier Mascherano’s Liverpool FC beat PSV in the next round.
• Niklas Moisander captained Finland in their 1-1 draw with Spain in a 2014 World Cup qualifier in Gijon on 22 March this year. Iniesta, Fàbregas, Víctor Valdés, Gerard Piqué, Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba and substitute Pedro Rodríguez all featured for Spain.
• Moisander was also Finland skipper in their 2-0 home defeat by Spain on 6 September, Alba scoring the visitors’ first goal in Helsinki. Iniesta, Xavi, Fàbregas and Pedro were also in the Spain lineup.
• Danny Hoesen was in the Netherlands side beaten 3-0 by Spain in the group stage of June’s UEFA European Under-21 Championship – a match that Martín Montoya, Marc Bartra and Cristian Tello watched from the bench.