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Ajax vs Atalanta: UEFA Champions League background, form guide, previous meetings

Ajax face a must-win Matchday 6 meeting with Atalanta, who will progress to the round of 16 again with a point in Amsterdam.

Atalanta's Josip Iličić and Ajax's Daley Blind keep their eyes on the ball
Atalanta's Josip Iličić and Ajax's Daley Blind keep their eyes on the ball Getty Images

Ajax and Atalanta are vying to join Group D winners Liverpool in the last 16 when they meet in Amsterdam in the final round of matches, and only a win will do for the Dutch side.

• Both teams also had their qualification fates decided on Matchday 6 of the 2019/20 UEFA Champions League; however, while Ajax bowed out after a home defeat, an impressive away victory took Atalanta into the knockout phase. The Italian side hold the edge this season as they have eight points in Group D, one more than Ajax; if Atalanta avoid defeat at the Johan Cruijff ArenA they will finish second in the section, with Ajax third. The positions will be reversed if Ajax win.

• Ajax had looked on course for three points in Bergamo on Matchday 2 thanks to first-half goals from Dušan Tadić, a penalty, and Lacina Traoré, but the home side hit back after the interval, two Duván Zapata strikes earning a draw.

Form guide
Ajax

Highlights: Atalanta 2-2 Ajax
Highlights: Atalanta 2-2 Ajax

• Ajax lost 1-0 home and away to Liverpool and have picked up six of their seven points against debutants Midtjylland, winning 2-1 in Denmark and 3-1 in the Netherlands.

• The Amsterdam club are making their 16th appearance in the group stage, matching PSV Eindhoven's Dutch record. It is their third straight appearance in the UEFA Champions League proper, and the first time they have gained automatic qualification since 2014/15.

• Ajax were Dutch champions for the 34th time in 2018/19 – their first league title since 2014 – and also lifted the Dutch Cup to claim their eighth domestic double, and a first since 2002. No league title was awarded last season.

• Ajax have qualified from their UEFA Champions League group only once in their last seven appearances in the competition.

• Having gone all the way from the second qualifying round to the semi-finals in 2018/19 – the first Dutch side to reach the last four since PSV in 2004/05 – Ajax again came through two qualifying rounds to reach the 2019/20 group stage, but advanced no further after finishing third in their section behind Valencia and Chelsea. Erik Ten Hag's team won their first two matches and picked up ten points (W3 D1 L2) but a 1-0 home defeat against the Spanish side on Matchday 6 proved costly.

• Ajax's subsequent UEFA Europa League campaign also proved short-lived; they lost to Getafe in the round of 32 (0-2 a, 2-1 h).

Highlights: Liverpool 1-0 Ajax (2 mins)
Highlights: Liverpool 1-0 Ajax (2 mins)

• The Amsterdammers won six of their 12 European matches in 2019/20 (D3 L3).

• Ten Hag's side have lost three of their last five European matches in Amsterdam (W2), all by a 0-1 scoreline. The Matchday 4 defeat of Midtjylland was only their second victory in their last six home games in the UEFA Champions League proper, with defeats in the other four.

• Ajax are looking for their first win in ten matches against visitors from Serie A. The last time they beat an Italian side in Amsterdam was in December 2002, a 2-1 success against Roma in the UEFA Champions League second group stage.

• The Dutch club last welcomed Italian visitors in the 2018/19 UEFA Champions League quarter-final, drawing the home first leg against Juventus 1-1 (2-1 away). That draw in Amsterdam extended Ajax's unbeaten home run against Serie A sides to six matches (W1 D5) since a 2-1 loss to the same opponents in the 2009/10 UEFA Europa League round of 32 first leg (2-3 aggregate).

• Home and away, Ajax are unbeaten in eight games against Italian clubs (W2 D6), since that 2010 loss to Juve in Amsterdam.

Atalanta

Highlights: Atalanta 1-1 Midtjylland (2 mins)
Highlights: Atalanta 1-1 Midtjylland (2 mins)

• Atalanta were 4-0 winners at Midtjylland, their biggest UEFA Champions League victory, before rallying to draw at home to Ajax. They then suffered a 5-0 loss at home to Liverpool that represented their heaviest European defeat; they turned the tables with a famous 2-0 win at Anfield in the reverse fixture but then continued to misfire at home last time out, drawing 1-1 against the Danish newcomers.

• Debutants in 2019/20, this is Atalanta's second successive UEFA Champions League appearance after they finished third in Serie A last season.

• Initially it appeared as if the Bergamo club's first taste of the competition would prove brief, Atalanta losing their first three UEFA Champions League matches, against Dinamo Zagreb (0-4 a), Shakhtar Donetsk (1-2 h) and Manchester City (1-5 a). However, a point at home against City on Matchday 4 (1-1) proved the catalyst for a remarkable revival, the Italian side beating Dinamo 2-0 at home and Shakhtar 3-0 away to snatch second place in the group behind City.

• Even better was to follow in the round of 16, Atalanta beating Valencia 4-1 at home and 4-3 away with Josip Iličić becoming the first player to score four times in a UEFA Champions League knockout match in the latter fixture.

• Atalanta looked set to continue their magical run thanks to Mario Pašalić's first-half goal in their quarter-final against Paris Saint-Germain, but the French side struck twice in the closing moments to end their adventure, and Atalanta's club record four-match winning streak in Europe.

• This is Atalanta's 50th European match, and their eighth campaign in continental competition. They reached the European Cup Winners' Cup semi-finals in 1987/88 and the UEFA Cup quarter-finals three years later.

Two-minute highlights: Liverpool 0-2 Atalanta
Two-minute highlights: Liverpool 0-2 Atalanta

• Atalanta have won their last four European away games, scoring 13 goals and conceding three, and seven of the last 11 (D1 L3).

• The Italian club have lost only six of their last 28 European games (W13 D9).

• The draw with Ajax on Matchday 2 was Atalanta's first game against a Dutch club.

Links and trivia
• Have played in the Netherlands:

Hans Hateboer (Groningen 2013–17)

Marten de Roon (Feynoord youth 1999–2006, Sparta Rotterdam 2006–12, Heerenveen 2012–15)

Robin Gosens (Vitesse 2012–15, Dordrecht 2014–15 loan, Heracles Almelo 2015–17)

Sam Lammers (PSV Eindhoven 2010–20, Heerenveen 2018/19 loan)

• Have played in Italy:

Maarten Stekelenburg (Roma 2011–13)

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (Milan 2009/10)

• Ten Hag's assistants Michael Reiziger (Milan 1996/97) and Christian Poulsen (Juventus 2008–10) both played in Serie A.

• Have played together:

Sean Klaiber & Robin Gosens (Dordrecht 2014/15)

Quincy Promes & Mario Pašalić (Spartak Moskva 2017/18)

• International team-mates:

Daley Blind, Quincy Promes, Davy Klaassen, Perr Schuurs & Hans Hateboer, Marten de Roon (Netherlands)

Nicolás Tagliafico & Alejandro Gómez (Argentina)

• Daley Blind and Hans Hateboer were in the Netherlands side that drew 1-1 against Italy at Atalanta's Stadio di Bergamo in the UEFA Nations League on 14 October.

Latest news
Ajax

  • Ajax had won six games in a row in all competitions, and seven of eight (D1), before losing at Liverpool on Matchday 5. They scored 23 goals in that six-match winning run, conceding four.

• Erik ten Hag's side then suffered their first home league defeat of the season on Saturday, going down 2-1 to Twente. They had won their previous five home Eredivisie matches of the campaign.

• A 5-0 victory at Emmen on 28 November meant Ajax had scored 42 goals in their first ten Eredivisie matches this season, a new club record, three more than at the same stage of 1980/81. Twenty-seven points from ten matches also equalled their best start to a league season, matching the 2006/07 total.

Two-minute highlights: Ajax 3-1 Midtjylland
Two-minute highlights: Ajax 3-1 Midtjylland

• Ajax's last nine goals have been scored by nine different players, Dušan Tadić finding the net on Saturday.

• Ajax have been victorious in nine of their 11 league matches this season, the other exception a 1-0 loss at Groningen on 4 October. That was their fourth match of the new Eredivisie campaign; in 2019/20, they were undefeated until their 16th fixture.

• On 24 October Ajax recorded a record Eredivisie victory, winning 13-0 at VVV-Venlo. They were the first team ever to score 13 goals in a Dutch top-flight game, beating their 12-1 win against Vitesse in May 1972, and the first Dutch club to hit double figures in an Eredivisie match since PSV Eindhoven beat Feyenoord 10-0 on 24 October 2010, exactly ten years previously.

• Lassina Traoré scored five goals at VVV, the first Ajax player to do so in an Eredivisie game since Marco van Basten hit six in 1985. Traoré also provided three assists; Frenkie de Jong had been the last Ajax player to do so in a league match, in 2017.

Lassina Traore celebrates one of his five goals against VVV Venlo
Lassina Traore celebrates one of his five goals against VVV VenloANP Sport via Getty Images

• Traoré had last scored for Ajax on 16 February; prior to the VVV game, his 15 Eredivisie appearances had yielded two goals.

• Having lost four of their last six matches in all competitions in 2019/20 (W2), Ajax have suffered eight defeats in their last 22 games, with the Atalanta fixture on Matchday 2 the only draw in that sequence.

• Traoré scored twice in Burkina Faso's 3-1 victory over Malawi in CAF Africa Cup of Nations qualifying on 12 November.

• Despite Tadić scoring his penalty, Serbia lost the shoot-out 5-4 to Scotland in the UEFA EURO 2020 play-off final after a 1-1 draw in Belgrade, also on 12 November.

• David Neres missed the weekend defeat with an ankle injury suffered on Matchday 5. He had returned as a substitute on the opening day of the Eredivisie season, a 1-0 win at Sparta Rotterdam on 13 September, having not played since suffering a knee injury on Matchday 4 of last season's UEFA Champions League.

• Daley Blind picked up a hamstring injury against Midtjylland on Matchday 4, returning to play 90 minutes on Saturday.

• Traoré went off with a thigh injury at the weekend.

• Summer signing Mohammed Kudus had to be substituted early on against Liverpool on Matchday 1 after injuring his right knee and is not expected to play again this year after surgery.

Atalanta
• The Bergamo club have won one of their last six matches in all competitions (D3 L2), the success at Liverpool on Matchday 4.

• Atalanta were held 0-0 at Spezia on 21 November, ending a run of scoring in 16 successive Serie A away games, their longest streak in the Italian top flight.

• Sunday's Serie A game at Udinese was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.

• Cristian Romero's Matchday 5 goal against Midtjylland was his first for Atalanta and his first in the UEFA Champions League.

Cristian Romero of Atalanta scored his first UEFA Champions League goal against Midtjylland
Cristian Romero of Atalanta scored his first UEFA Champions League goal against MidtjyllandGetty Images

• Defender Mattia Caldara is likely to be sidelined until the new year after undergoing knee surgery in early October.

• Goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini made his first appearance this season at Spezia after recovering from a knee injury, but limped off midway through the second half of a 2-0 home defeat by Verona on 28 November with a similar problem and has not played since.

• Fabio Depaoli (thigh) and Mario Pašalić (pubic bone) have both been out since the Spezia game, although the former has been an unused substitute in the last two games.

• Sam Lammers missed the game against Midtjylland with an ankle injury.

• Ruslan Malinovskyi and Aleksei Miranchuk (both illness) have also been sidelined.

• Goalkeeper Marco Carnesecchi kept a clean sheet in a 4-0 win away to Luxembourg on 15 November that secured Italy's place in the 2021 UEFA European Under-21 Championship.

• Remo Freuler scored in Switzerland's 1-1 UEFA Nations League draw against Spain on 14 November.

Highlights: Atalanta 0-5 Liverpool
Highlights: Atalanta 0-5 Liverpool

• Matteo Pessina made his Italy debut in the 4-0 friendly win against Estonia on 11 November.

• Pašalić scored in Croatia's 3-3 draw against Turkey the same day.

• Josip Iličić converted an added-time penalty as Slovenia defeated Kosovo 2-1 in the UEFA Nations League on 15 November.

• Alejandro Gómez was included in the 2019/20 UEFA Champions League squad of the season.

• Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini finished fifth in the ranking for the UEFA Men's Coach of the Year award.

• Hans Hateboer, Alejandro Gómez and Josip Iličić were included among the candidates for the UEFA.com fans' Men's Team of the Year.