Ajax vs BenficaUEFA Champions League, KO: 20:00 Mar 15, 2022, Amsterdam ArenA
AJAX have been great entertainers in the Champions League this season and the second leg of their last-16 clash with Benfica promises more fireworks.
Despite their stunning displays in the group stage, I thought the bookies got it wrong in making the Dutch side odds-on favourites for a win at the Stadium of Light.
My bet on Benfica in the double chance market came up as the Portuguese giants twice battled back in a thrilling game. But the 2-2 draw was still a good result for Ajax and they will now be confident of finishing the job back in Amsterdam.
Erik Ten Hag's men followed up that Lisbon draw with a shock 2-1 loss at Go Ahead Eagles but they have got back on track since then, rattling off three successive wins in the Eredivise.
Benfica certainly won't be pushovers though and they head to the Netherlands in decent form, having gone seven without defeat in all competitions.
Lowly Vizela claimed a surprise point in Lisbon on Friday but Benfica had Adel Taarabt sent off inside the first 10 minutes and did well to come from behind to claim a 1-1 draw.
That shows they remain a hard team to beat and it will be fascinating to see if free-scoring Ajax can get the better of them to reach the quarter-finals.
How the bookies view it
Ajax remain heavy favourites to qualify at a best 11/50 with Unibet while Benfica are as big as 4/1 with SBK which looks overpriced. For a win on the night the Dutch side are 5/12 at SBK, with the Eagles 33/5 at the same firm and the draw at 90 minutes paying 9/2 with Bet365.
Head to head
Ajax have bossed this fixture throughout history, winning four of the eight meetings and losing just once. The last two meetings have ended in Lisbon draws but Ajax won 1-0 back in 2018 when these teams last faced off in Amsterdam (below).
Players to watch
Sebastian Haller has scored in every Champions League game this season and even netted at both ends in Lisbon a fortnight ago. But he's poor value for another goal here at a best 10/13 with Unibet so I'm switching to Dusan Tadic for an Ajax scorer at 13/10 with Coral. The Serb also netted in the first leg and has three goals from his last four games.
Darwin Nunez has caught the eye for Benfica in the Champions League this term, netting against Euro heavyweights Barcelona and Bayern Munich. The Uruguayan is 11/5 at Paddy Power for a 24th goal of the season.
Anything else catch the eye?
We saw 25 goals across Ajax's six group games and four more were added to the tally in that thrilling last-16 first leg in Lisbon. Benfica's games have also been a good watch this term, with BTTS coming up in nine of their last 10 outings in all competitions.
So it's no great surprise to see both teams to score priced just 5/9 with SBK while over 2.5 goals pays even less at 4/9 with Bet365. It's hard to find value in the goal markets but over 1.5 first-half strikes is evens with Ladbrokes and might be the best shout.
Cards can often fly in the second leg of a knockout tie with the stakes so high and six yellows were dished out in the first leg. That suggests a busy night for the ref but I've yet to see any markets for cards.
This UEFA Champions League match between Ajax and Benfica will be played on Mar 15, 2022 and kick off at 20:00. Check below for our tipsters best Ajax vs Benfica prediction. You may also visit our dedicated betting previews section for the most up to date previews.