Dnipro v Ajax preview
Wednesday, March 11, 2015
FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk have lost just once in six games with Dutch sides as they prepare to face the UEFA Europa League's sole remaining domestic champion, AFC Ajax.
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FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk have exceeded the expectations of many to reach the UEFA Europa League round of 16, and statistics suggest they have reason for confidence as they take on AFC Ajax.
What they say
Myron Markevych, Dnipro coach: "I've been a fan of Ajax since the days of Johan Cruyff, and I was impressed by the team that won the Champions League [in 1995]. We're up against a legendary club, and I'm really proud. [In the second leg we will play at] one of the most famous stadiums in the world, the Amsterdam ArenA. I hope both teams demonstrate high-class football. Ajax have lots of young players, as do we. Their young players are very strong technically and tactically so it will be a difficult task."
Frank de Boer, Ajax coach: "Dnipro are a strong team who are able to surprise us. Their core is Ukrainian players but they also have a few quality foreign footballers. I'd pick out Yevhen Konoplyanka, a leader in the Ukraine national team who's always able to create or score a goal on his own. Dnipro had a few good games in the group stage, we studied them well and know their qualities. A 0-0 draw would be a positive result for us but we'll have to try to score, we want to show good football. [Arkadiusz] Milik has recovered but we still have to see how he trains today. He's our only doubt."
• The sides are meeting for the first time in UEFA competition.
• Dnipro's home record against Dutch sides is W2 L1; they have yet to lose in the Netherlands (W2 D1 – scoring two goals in each game).
• Ajax's only previous encounter with Ukrainian opponents was a 2010/11 UEFA Champions League play-off success against FC Dynamo Kyiv.
• Dnipro have won their last two UEFA Europa League home games, but have been far from prolific in their European home fixtures this season, six games producing just five goals.
• Ajax have won their last three European games without conceding.
• Dnipro have reached the round of 16 of this competition for the first time. Their biggest European successes were making it to the quarter-finals of the 1984/85 and 1989/90 European Champion Clubs' Cups.
• Ajax have not made it to the round of 16 since 2010/11, when they lost out to FC Spartak Moskva. The last time they reached the quarter-finals of this competition – in 1997/98 – they also bowed out to Spartak.
• Dnipro eliminated Olympiacos FC to reach the round of 16; their coach Myron Markevych also overcame Olympiacos with FC Metalist Kharkiv in the 2010/11 UEFA Europa League round of 16, but his side lost in the following round to Sporting Clube de Portugal.
Trivia and links
• Ajax and FC Zenit both got through their first UEFA Europa League ties of the season without conceding, but five of the eight sides who transferred from the UEFA Champions League group stage were eliminated in the round of 32.
• Of the sides left in the competition, Dnipro have committed the most fouls this season: 142 in total. They are also the most-fouled side, with 137 infringements against them.
• Ajax (1992) are among five former UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League winners in the round of 16 along with SSC Napoli (1989), FC Internazionale Milano (1991, 1994, 1998), holders Sevilla FC (2006, 2007, 2014) and Zenit (2008).
• Ajax are the only reigning domestic champions in the round of 16. Six others were eliminated in the round of 32: Legia Warszawa (Poland), Aalborg BK (Denmark), FC Salzburg (Austria), Celtic FC (Scotland), Olympiacos FC (Greece) and RSC Anderlecht (Belgium).
• Ajax's Arkadiusz Milik is one of six Polish nationals left in the competition who still have the chance of a dramatic homecoming when the UEFA Europa League final takes place in Warsaw on 27 May.
• Ajax midfielder Lasse Schöne turns 29 on the day of the UEFA Europa League final.
• Dnipro coach since May 2014, Myron Markevych started out as a midfielder with home-town club FC Karpaty Lviv. While his playing career was not a huge success, he served Karpaty in four spells as a coach before a lengthy stint at FC Metalist Kharkiv earned him a reputation for attacking football. He briefly coached Ukraine in 2010.
• Ajax coach since 2010, Frank de Boer claimed five league titles, the UEFA Cup and the UEFA Champions League as a player with the Amsterdam club, with the defender and his twin brother Ronald then scooping a Spanish championship at Barcelona in 1998/99. He has now steered his old team to four straight Eredivisie crowns.