Once in a while they come back, they seem as strong as the previous time and, as tradition says, bolder, more modern and always intent on putting an end to cycles that seemed limitless. That’s how it was in the famous 70s with Cruyff, in the nineties with Kluivert and now that they managed to progress to the Champions League quarter-finals, by eliminating, and indeed humiliating, Real Madrid at Bernabeu – the team who for three consecutive years had won the Champions League.
Ajax: dynamism, velocity, technique
The Ajax is strong and fearsome, it has a stack of important tradition when facing such games, and at the same time, that exuberance that many consider a "conditio sine qua non" to win in Europe. But it could be decidedly wrong and misleading believe that Ajax’s freedom of movement and running are their only weapons in their tactical disorder.
If the data reveals a team that runs a lot, with 890 km covered on the field in the Champions League for now, the technical characteristics of the "Lancieri" should not be underestimated. Comparing the data with that of Juventus, it can be seen that the possession of the ball (58% against 54%) is higher compared to the Bianconeri, they’re also more precise when it comes to passing (88% against 83%), but Ajax, as they amply demonstrated against the Real Madrid, is a team that still loves to dribble and not just play vertically.
At the Bernabeu in fact, in the first minutes of the match, “Los Merengues" tried to attack the Dutch high up the field to inhibit the construction of the game from the back lines. Erik ten Hag's team accepted the challenge, building from behind without throwing the ball away and getting enticed by the long ball to trigger his fast attackers, who are good at giving depth.
Ajax’s movement allowed them to create in different areas of the field that numerical superiority. Tadic, one of the best players this season, played many balls with class and technique, moving between the lines and constantly leaving Real’s defence, which was missing Sergio Ramos, in difficulty. Another key player for the Dutch’s tactical balance was De Jong: the complete midfielder, who is able to build a game and recover the ball, is also a great runner and smart on a tactical level. Credit must also be given to him for his display in Madrid.
Exuberance, running and technique: three elements that make this team fearsome without forgetting the tactical ingenuity that emerged in the double-header against Real. In Amsterdam the Dutch outfit often dominated, but two defensive distractions nearly jeopardised the possibility of qualification. Even in the return leg, despite the fact that the Spaniards were literally stunned by the dynamism of their opponents, when Ajax were two goals down, and had qualification in their pockets, conceded three goals against the Spanish giants.