PAOK vs Ajax
Competition: UEFA Champions League
Date: 6 August 2019
Kick-off: 19:00 CET
PAOK have been fighting to reach the Champions League group stage since… ever. Finishing second in Greece’s championship all these years, they had to play against some really strong teams in the CL qualifiers and playoffs. Just last year they eliminated Basel and Spartak Moscow, before getting kicked out by Benfica (despite drawing in Lisbon in the first leg). Twice the last 10 years, it was actually Ajax who… denied the Thessaloniki side a spot in the group stage. What’s super interesting is that both times the first leg was in Amsterdam, and both times PAOK drew 1-1. They had the advantage heading into the return leg at home, but both times they were left empty-handed. Ironically, they find Ajax on their path once again, despite the fact that this time they are in the qualifiers as champions (they won the double in Greece last season, and the championship was their first in 34 years. Plus, they won the championship undefeated). They have a new coach; Romanian Razvan Lucescu sort of… ditched them right after preseason started, moving to Al Hilal. In less than 48 hours, the club reached an agreement with former Braga coach, Abel Ferreira. They have looked very-very good in their last friendly matches, but on the other hand, they have key men missing, for months actually, having gotten seriously injured late last season. The championship in Greece hasn’t started yet, so this is PAOK’s first official match of the season.
This… PAOK vs Ajax tie feels unfair to PAOK, after all they did last season, to have to play in the third qualifying round against a team that reached the CL semifinals last season, but on the other hand, this feels sort of unfair to Ajax as well. Obviously they are huge favorites to qualify, no doubt, but again, after all they did last season, to have to face a team like PAOK in the third qualifying round (not even in the playoffs), feels… too much. The Dutch lost important players over the summer, but they are still… Ajax. Last weekend they drew 2-2 at Vitesse, on their debut in Holland’s championship. That was their second official match this season; a week earlier they had beaten PSV 2-0 to win the Super Cup in the Netherlands.
Previous five matches:
Fortuna Sittard vs PAOK 1-5
Anderlecht vs PAOK 1-3
Sint-Truiden vs PAOK 0-4
Universitatea Cluj vs PAOK 0-5
Zwolle vs PAOK 2-2
Vitesse vs Ajax 2-2
Ajax vs Sivasspor 1-1
Ajax vs PSV 2-0
Ajax vs Panathinaikos 1-2
Ajax vs OFI 6-2
PAOK’s next game is the return leg of this tie, in a week from now, in Amsterdam. Ajax are hosting Emmen on Saturday (Holland championship).
PAOK vs Ajax: Head to head Stats
PAOK drew with Ajax 3-3 in 2010, lost 1-2 in 2016 (both were Champions League qualifiers), but have actually beaten them once in Thessaloniki, 4-2, in a friendly game in 1988, that was held not at Toumba, but at another stadium.
PAOK vs Ajax: Prediction
Ajax are considered relatively clear favorites to win the game. Personally, I would bet on goals, leaving winners and losers aside.
PAOK vs Ajax: Betting Tips
“Over 2.5 goals” is at 2.10. Combined with “both teams to score” it pays somewhat better, 2.45.