The Champions League group stages threw up another interesting battle between a rejuvenated Valencia side who are continuing on the right track, showing positive growth away from the dark days of a few years ago. They hosted a creative Ajax side who, despite their summer transfer activity are unbeaten in the Eredivise and still playing an attractive, attacking brand of football.
Newly appointed Albert Celades continued with the status quo as he attempts to understand his new squad better. He opted for a straight 4-4-2, a shape Valencia have used 96% of the time this season. A host of injury troubles saw Geoffrey Kondogbia, Kevin Gameiro and Carlos Soler all absent from the starting XI. Instead, Rodrigo partnered talisman Maxi Gómez upfront, supported by Ferrán Torres and Gonçalo Guedes from the wide spaces. Dani Parejo and Francis Coquelin operated as the centre-midfield pairing, providing shape and stability to the system.
The visitors also started in their usual formation, a fluid 4-2-3-1, spearheaded by Dušan Tadić. Quincy Promes and Hakim Ziyech provided the width and supported the frontman with penetrative runs inside their respective full-backs. The impressive Donny Van de Beek operated in the number 10 role, linking the midfield cohesively with the attacking unit. Lisandro Martínez and Edson Álvarez were deployed as the double pivot; they played a large role in developing attacks from the back as we’ll see later.
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