AFC Ajax have suffered hope-crushing defeats by Real Madrid CF in each of the past two campaigns but must tear up that script if they are to hold on to third place in Group D.
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AFC Ajax will need to improve their recent fortunes on Spanish soil when they conclude their Group D programme at Real Madrid CF. This time last year, Ajax's hopes of reaching the round of 16 ended with a home defeat by the Merengues; they now visit Madrid trying to hold on to third place in the group ahead of Manchester City FC. While Madrid are already guaranteed second place, Ajax lead City by a point in the pursuit of a berth in the UEFA Europa League round of 32.
• These two great names of the European game have met five times in the past three seasons and Madrid have won each game, registering an aggregate 16-1 goal difference, most recently a 4-1 victory in Amsterdam in October.
• Ajax's hopes of finishing second in their group in 2011/12 were ended by a 3-0 home reverse against Madrid on 7 December last year, José Callejón (14, 90+2) and Gonzalo Higuaín (41) scoring. Frank de Boer's men had needed only a draw but Madrid's victory and Lyon's 7-1 triumph at GNK Dinamo Zagreb dropped them down to third.
• The teams were:
Ajax: Vermeer, Van der Wiel, Vertonghen, Blind, Anita, Eriksen, Enoh, Janssen (Klaassen 76), Sulejmani, Lodeiro (Bulykin 74), Ebecilio.
Madrid: Adán, Arbeloa (Mendes 67), Albiol, Varane, Coentrão, Granero (Alonso 59), Şahin, Kaká, Callejón, Higuaín, Benzema (Altıntop 54).
• Madrid had also won last season's matchday two meeting at the Santiago Bernabéu 3-0 with goals from Cristiano Ronaldo (25), Kaká (41), and Karim Benzema (49).
• Madrid's 4-0 victory at Ajax on matchday five of 2010/11 consigned the Amsterdam club to third place. Having already prevailed 2-0 in Spain thanks to Vurnon Anita's own goal and Higuaín, the Merengues triumphed again with Benzema (36), Álvaro Arbeloa (44), and Ronaldo (70, 81 penalty) scoring for a team who lost Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos to late red cards.
• Ajax had previously won four of the teams' six matches, drawing one and losing the other. In the 1972/73 semi-final they won 2-1 at home to Madrid then triumphed 1-0 in Spain, going on to win a third successive European Champion Clubs' Cup.
• Madrid's seven-game winning streak at home in the UEFA Champions League was ended by a 2-2 draw with Dortmund on matchday four.
• Madrid's home record against teams from the Netherlands is W9 D1 L2; the visitors' away record against Spanish sides is W5 D2 L7.
• Ajax have failed to win on any of their last five visits to Spain, losing four. Their last success was a 3-2 victory at Club Atlético de Madrid in the 1996/97 UEFA Champions League quarter-finals, in which De Boer played and his brother Ronald scored.
• During four years as an FC Barcelona player between 1999 and 2003 De Boer faced Madrid nine times in the Liga and UEFA Champions League, winning two, losing two and drawing five. José Mourinho was assistant to Barcelona coach Louis van Gaal in 1999/2000. De Boer was part of the Ajax side that beat Madrid 1-0 in the group stage in September 1995, missing the 2-0 return victory in Spain through injury.
• Ryan Babel played alongside Alonso and Arbeloa at Liverpool FC between 2007 and 2009. He set up Liverpool's third goal in a 4-0 home victory over Madrid in the 2008/09 round of 16 second leg.
• Christian Poulsen was at Sevilla FC between 2006 and 2008, playing in two home league wins and two away defeats by Madrid.
• Christian Eriksen and Poulsen were in the Denmark team eliminated from UEFA EURO 2012 after a 2-1 defeat by Sami Khedira and Mesut Özil's Germany. Eriksen and Lasse Schøne, a late substitute, played in a 3-2 loss to Portugal – who fielded Ronaldo, Pepe and Fábio Coentrão – in the same competition.
• Eriksen and Poulsen had traded wins with Madrid's Portuguese contingent in qualifying for Poland and Ukraine, Ronaldo scoring in both matches.
• Toby Alderweireld's Belgium lost 1-0 to Khedira and Özil's Germany in a home UEFA EURO 2012 qualifier in September 2010.