Ajax v Benfica background

Ajax are in strong position in Group E as they welcome Benfica, who got their campaign up and running on matchday two.

Noussair Mazraoui's goal gave Ajax a valuable point at Bayern
Noussair Mazraoui's goal gave Ajax a valuable point at Bayern ©Getty Images

Ajax and Benfica both have grounds for optimism as they meet in the third round of Group E games with each promisingly placed in the section.

• Ajax head the standings with four points – including three from an impressive home win on matchday one – while Benfica bounced back from an opening defeat to revive their challenge with three points last time out.

Previous meetings
• The sides have played in five previous contests – all in a three-year period between 1969 and 1972.

• It took a replay to separate the clubs in the 1968/69 European Cup quarter-finals, Benfica winning the first leg 3-1 in Amsterdam – still their only victory against Ajax – but losing by the same scoreline in Lisbon. Even in the Paris replay, extra time was needed for a victor to finally be decided, Ajax running out 3-0 winners with Inge Danielsson scoring twice to make it four goals in the tie.

• Ajax's victorious 1971/72 European Cup campaign featured another tight tie with Benfica, Sjaak Swart scoring the only goal of the semi-final in the Amsterdam first leg.

Watch Ajax earn Bayern draw
Watch Ajax earn Bayern draw

Form guide
Ajax
• After a 3-0 victory against AEK Athens in Amsterdam on matchday one, Ajax produced another creditable performance last time out to earn a 1-1 draw at Bayern München.

• Second in the Eredivisie last season, Ajax are in the UEFA Champions League group stage for the 14th time, but the first since 2014/15. Then their campaign ended in the group stage, for the fifth year in a row; they finished third on each occasion and have not progressed from their section since 2005/06.

• Ajax's 2017/18 European campaign lasted only two ties, losing to Nice in the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round before a 4-2 aggregate defeat against Rosenborg (0-1 home, 2-3 away) that extended their winless run in continental competition to six matches (D2 L4).

• However, Ajax are unbeaten in Europe in 2018/19, beating Sturm Graz home (2-0) and away (3-1) in the UEFA Champions League second qualifying round and Standard Liège 5-2 on aggregate in the third qualifying round (2-2 away, 3-0 home) before overcoming Dynamo Kyiv 3-1 in the play-offs (3-1 home, 0-0 away) and then defeating AEK and drawing at Bayern.

• The Amsterdammers have lost only one of their last seven home fixtures in the UEFA Champions League group stage (W4 D2).

• Ajax have won their last two home games against Portuguese visitors, most recently a 2-1 defeat of Porto in the 1998/99 UEFA Champions League group stage. However, that 1972 win against Benfica is their only other against a Portuguese club in Amsterdam; they have lost three of their other four matches there.

Highlights: AEK 2-3 Benfica
Highlights: AEK 2-3 Benfica

Benfica
• Beaten 2-0 by Bayern in Lisbon in their opening Group E game, Benfica bounced back by defeating AEK 3-2 in Athens in their last fixture – Haris Seferović opening the scoring to register the club's 100th goal in the UEFA Champions League proper.

• Victory in Greece ended Benfica's eight-match losing run in the UEFA Champions League, group stage to final – a Portuguese record.

• Benfica have still won only three of their last 13 continental fixtures (D2 L8).

• Portuguese Liga runners-up in 2017/18, Benfica are in the UEFA Champions League group stage for the 14th time – and the ninth season in a row.

• The Lisbon giants have reached seven European Cup finals, winning the trophy in 1961 and 1962.

• Benfica kicked off this season in the third qualifying round with a 2-1 aggregate win against Fenerbahçe (1-0 home, 1-1 away). The first leg ended a run of seven successive European defeats – the Eagles failing to score in six of those, including the last five. Greece's PAOK were then defeated 5-2 over two legs in the play-offs (1-1 home, 4-1 away).

• Before this season, Benfica had lost four successive European away games, and were without a win in five. Despite the victories at PAOK and AEK, they have won only three of their last 11 fixtures outside Portugal (D2 L6).

• Benfica finished bottom of their section in 2017/18, losing all six games – the 20th time a club has gone through a UEFA Champions League group stage without picking up a point.

• The Eagles are unbeaten in their last six visits to the Netherlands (W1 D5), and in their last 12 games against Dutch clubs overall (W7 D5) – although that run started with the 1988 European Cup final, which they lost on penalties to PSV Eindhoven after a goalless draw in Stuttgart.

Links and trivia
• Ajax coach Erik ten Hag was assistant as PSV Eindhoven lost 6-3 on aggregate to Benfica in the 2010/11 UEFA Europa League quarter-finals. Zakaria Labyad scored PSV's goal in a 4-1 first-leg defeat in Lisbon.

• Has played in Portugal:
Zakaria Labyad (Sporting CP 2012/13 & 2015)

• International team-mates:
Nicolás Tagliafico & Eduardo Salvio (Argentina)
Nicolás Tagliafico & Facundo Ferreyra (Argentina Under-20)
Dušan Tadić & Andrija Živković (Serbia)

• Klaas-Jan Huntelaar has two goals in three appearances against Benfica, scoring in Heerenveen's 4-2 defeat in the 2004/05 UEFA Cup group stage and in Schalke's 2-0 home win at the same stage of the 2010/11 UEFA Champions League.

Latest news

Ajax
• Ajax's 15-match unbeaten run (W12 D3) in all competitions stretching back to 15 April was ended by a 3-0 Eredivisie defeat at PSV Eindhoven on 23 September, halting a four-match winning league streak. That is their only defeat of the season in all competitions (W13 D4); they were 4-0 winners at Heerenveen on Saturday.

• Ajax have won their last six home games in all competitions, and are unbeaten in their last 20 matches at the Amsterdam ArenA (W18 D2), since a 2-1 loss to Utrecht on 5 November 2017.

• On 26 September Ajax reached the Dutch Cup round of 32 with a 7-0 win away to amateur side Te Werve. Ryan Gravenberch – who had become the club's youngest player with his appearance against PSV three days earlier – became Ajax's youngest ever scorer at the age of 16 years 133 days. The teenager succeeds Clarence Seedorf, who was 16 years 361 days when he scored on 28 March 1993 against Vitesse.

• Kasper Dolberg has scored in Ajax's last four domestic games, while midfielder Hakim Ziyech has five goals in his last seven Eredivisie outings.

• Dolberg made his first start for Denmark in the goalless UEFA Nations League draw in the Republic of Ireland on 13 October – his eighth cap.

• Ajax's new signing Hassane Bandé is expected to be out until the winter break after suffering a calf injury in a friendly against Anderlecht in early July. Joël Veltman has not played since suffering a cruciate knee ligament injury on 19 April.

Benfica
• Before losing to Bayern on matchday one, Benfica were on an 11-match unbeaten run in all competitions (W7 D4) stretching back to 28 April. They have won four of their five matches since that defeat (D1), including a 1-0 home win against Porto on 7 October and a 3-0 victory at third-tier Sertanense in the last 32 of the Portuguese Cup on Thursday.

• Haris Seferović scored in Switzerland's 2-1 win in Iceland in the UEFA Nations League on 15 October, and has three goals in his last four games for club and country.

• Eduardo Salvio provided an assist in Argentina's 4-0 friendly win against Iraq on 11 October, Franco Cervi scoring the fourth goal.

• Nicolás Castillo scored the only goal as Chile beat Mexico in a 16 October friendly.

• Sébastien Corchia had been out since 22 August after an operation on a knee injury before returning at Sertanense, when Facundo Ferreyra made his first appearance since 25 August, coming on as a half-time substitute after recovering from a back problem.

• Jardel has not played since picking up a thigh injury against Chaves on 27 September.

• Cristian Lema made his Benfica debut on matchday two after a knee injury.

• Filip Krovinović has been sidelined by a knee injury since January.

• On 25 September 37-year-old defender Luisão ended his contract by mutual agreement and announced the end of his playing career after 15 seasons at Benfica.

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