by Andrew Crawshaw
When – 18:00 kickoff Wednesday 28 September
Where – Amsterdam ArenA!
Is the game being televised – Yes on arsenal.com with the broadcast starting at 17:45
A quick recap from the first leg…
The first leg was held last Tuesday at Meadow park Borehamwood and ended two all. Ajax took the lead early in the first half with a goal from close range by Romeé Leucher. Stina Blackstenius equalised six minutes later firing in when a Rafaelle header came back off the bar. In the second half beth Mead was fouled in the penalty area by Soraya Verhoeve and our captain Kim Little made no mistake in scoring from the penalty spot. Late on we failed to clear following a free kick and Romeé Leuchter prodded in for her second goal of the game.
The first half belonged to Ajax, we failed to cope with their press and always looked to be on the back foot, in the second half we were better and looked fairly comfortable for the most part until we had a 30 second brain fart which enabled them to score the equaliser.
Is the game important?
Yes, I believe it is. We need to be in the group stage of the Champions League to provide the highest level of competition for us as a club and for the players individually. There are arguments that the format of the Champions League is flawed, despite only being introduced last season. Manchester City have already been eliminated from the competition having lost to Real Madrid for the second year running in the preliminary round. If England are to keep three teams qualifying for the competition then it is essential that those teams win matches to ensure that our Coefficient Score remains above that of the Countries currently below us in the rankings.
The winner of this match will proceed to the round of 16 where the teams are split into four groups of four, the top two from the round robin matches in the groups into the knockout quarter and semi-finals leading to the final to be played at the Philips Stadium in Eindhoven in May 2023.
Comments from Jonas Eidevall from the press conference
Coping with Ajax’s high press – In general you would say that more passes can better connect the team. I think we were guilty in the first game of not keeping hold of the ball well enough, we had too few passes. It’s about moving the ball better to connect better
Asked if Ajax will have an advantage by not having had a weekend game he said “Yeah, I mean, obviously, their league is doing something that a lot of European leagues do. They try to get a playing schedule which will give their teams the best possible chance of qualifying for competitions. They want to give them more time between games. That’s obviously something that the FA don’t do.”
On whether Ajax will be more confident playing at home – I thought they played with a lot of confidence last week and I’m under no illusion that this game will be anything else. It will be a hard game and we will need to be very good. Away games in Europe are tough. We will need to be good in all aspects of the game, we need to defend well, we also need to attack well. We also need to be good from set pieces and good in transition. It’s up to us to be the best we can be, if so I believe we can go through but it’s up to us to reach that level
Is the prospect of playing the group stage games at the Emirates an added incentive? – Of course we want to play in the group stage of the Champions League. It’s about playing the best and being challenged. Of course, it’s so nice of the club that they want to play in the best stadium as well. We will do our best to go through
Have the team connected with the men’s set piece coach Nicholas Jover? – not yet but, reading between the lines, it’s something on the agenda
Jonas Eidevall confirmed that we have a full squad available for the match with the exception of long term absentee Teyah Goldie who is still recovering from a knee injury. Rafaelle was substituted late on in the game against Spurs on Saturday with a knock but will be fit for this game.
I would expect the team to be very similar to the starting 11 from the North London Derby
Mana Zinsburger (GK)
Laura Wienroither/Noelle Maritz, Leah Williamson, Rafaelle, Steph Catley
Lia Walti, Vivianne Miedema, Kim Little
Beth Mead, Caitlin Foord, Katie McCabe
Kaylan Marckese, Lotte Wubben-Moy, Jen Beattie, Noelle Maritz, Jordan Nobbs, Frida Maanum, Mana Iwabuchi, Stina Blackstenius, Lina Hurtig
What to look out for
In the first leg the gap between Kim Little and Lia Walti and Viv in the No10 role was too big. Viv was always getting the ball with her back to goal and at least two if not three Ajax players snapping around her. As a result she had few if any options for progressive forward passes and our forwards were starved of the ball.
For this reason, I suspect that Eidevall will stick with Caitlin Foord to lead the line, her more direct style of carrying the ball forward is likely to have more impact than Stina Blackstenius who looks to play off the shoulder of the last defender looking to run onto balls played into space behind the defence. It worked well against Spurs and will hopefully do so again in this game.
If we play like we did in the first half last week I don’t think we will win, if we play like we did in the second half I believe we should.
Away goals no longer have an extra significance so we just need to score more goals than Ajax. I expect a fairly cagey game to start and just hope that we use the experience of playing last week as an extra incentive to win.
We need to make sure that Romeé Leucher doesn’t have time on the ball in our penalty area.
I would also hope for a referee who makes more logical decisions than last week.
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