Ajax vs Aston Villa

, KO: 17:45 Mar 7, 2024, Johan Cruyff Arena
Aston Villa

ASTON VILLA are firm favourites with the bookies to win the Europa Conference League this season but face a major hurdle in the last 16 against an Ajax outfit more used to dining at Europe's top table.

It sums up a chaotic season for the fallen Dutch giants that they now find themselves playing in UEFA's third-tier competition, with some bookies making them massive 20/1 shots to lift the trophy.

Those odds are probably so big because Ajax find themselves coming up against an Aston Villa side currently sitting in the Premier League top four after a remarkable revival under the canny stewardship of Unai Emery.

Villa were in a relegation fight when the Spaniard replaced Steven Gerrard last season but Emery made such an impact that they ended the season in style to claim a European place for the first time in 13 years.

Emery's side marked their return by annihilating Hibernian in the Conference League play-offs but were given a rude awakening when they lost to Legia Warsaw in their first group game, bringing up two bets for me. That ended up being their only loss in the section though and Aston Villa finished top of the pile to book a direct passage to the last 16.

Ajax started their European campaign in the Europa League but any hope of reaching the knockout stages disappeared as they took just two points from their first five games.

The only saving grace was that AEK Athens had an equally poor campaign and a victory at home to the Greeks on the final matchday saw Ajax grab a parachute to the Conference League.

John van ‘t Schip has steadied the ship a little in Amsterdam after a horror start to the season under Maurice Steijn had them flirting with relegation in the Eredivisie. But their form is still flaky and that's why the bookies fancy Aston Villa to swat them aside.

How the bookies view it

Aston Villa are heavy favourites to qualify at 2/11 with 888Sport while Ajax are a whopping 5/1 at William Hill to reach the quarter-finals. Bet365 even have the Dutch giants as big as 4/1 for a win at home in this first leg, which looks overpriced even with their struggles this season. Emery's side are a best 5/7 at VBet for an Amsterdam victory while the draw pays 16/5 at William Hill.

Head to head

These teams have faced off just once before, in the UEFA Cup group stage back in 2008. Due to a format that saw just four games played in each five-team group, the only encounter came at Villa Park, with Martin O'Neill's side winning 2-1.

Players to watch

Brian Brobbey has been flying despite Ajax’s troubles this season and boasts 18 goals already. The striker will fancy his chances against an Aston Villa defence that doesn’t keep a lot of clean sheets and he’s 11/4 with Bet365 for anytime scorer.

Ollie Watkins is in the form of his life for Aston Villa with a weekend double at Luton taking his tally for the campaign to 22. The striker has scored five times in his last three games and is just 11/10 with Bet365 for another goal in Amsterdam.

Anything else catch the eye?

Although Aston Villa have been superb this season, I reckon the bookies are making them too heavy a favourite for a win on the road against an Ajax team that still boasts some talented players. First legs can often be a bit cagey so the Dutch side look decent value in the double chance market at 6/5 with Coral.

Jordan Henderson will be desperate to impress in his first game against English opposition since quitting Liverpool for an ill-fated spell in Saudi Arabia. The midfielder could fly into a few challenges and that makes him worth a punt for a card at a tempting 11/4 with Bet365.

Skipper John McGinn is usually at the heart of the action for Aston Villa and Paddy Power price the Scotland midfielder at evens for a shot on target.

This match between Ajax and Aston Villa will be played on Mar 7, 2024 and kick off at 17:45. Check below for our tipsters best Ajax vs Aston Villa prediction. You may also visit our dedicated betting previews section for the most up to date previews.

Ajax vs Aston Villa Betting Tips & Predictions
Ajax double chance
Jordan Henderson to be carded
John McGinn over 0.5 shots on target

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