Union Berlin will host Ajax on Thursday night in the Europa League last-16 playoffs. The first leg of the two-legged series finished nil-nil with neither side able to get the upper hand. Now, Union will attempt to eliminate the more established European tournament team, Ajax, at the Stadion An der Alten Försterei.
Ajax couldn’t take their chances at the Johan Cruyff Arena in the first leg. Now, the Amsterdammers head to Berlin seeking an away win. Ajax rebounded from the nil-nil draw with Union by defeating Sparta Rotterdam 4-0 at the weekend in the Eredivisie.
Union Berlin suffered a second nil-nil draw in a row at the weekend versus Bundesliga club Schalke. The Irons are unbeaten in eight straight matches in all competitions. Before drawing with Ajax in the first leg, Union had won six straight games.
Ajax, on the other hand, are on a 13-match unbeaten streak in all competitions. Which side will get the win and progress to the Europa League last 16 proper on Thursday night?
Sportsbooks have Union Berlin to win the fixture at odds of 6/5. Ajax are at odds of 12/5. Bookmakers have the teams at odds of 9/4 to draw at full-time.
Union Berlin vs Ajax Team News
Union Berlin coach Urs Fischer rotated the team at the weekend to rest players ahead of the second leg versus Ajax. The change in personnel was partly the reason for Union’s nil-nil draw with Schalke. The Irons looked fatigued from their exploits in midweek Europa League play.
Three players are on Union’s injury list ahead of the match in the German capital. Defender Diogo Leite could miss the match due to an illness. Goalkeeper Jakob Busk is also suffering from an illness and could be left out of the squad. Forward Andras Schafer will miss the second leg due to a foot injury. He won’t return to the squad until March. Sheraldo Becker leads Union in goalscoring with eight goals. He also has seven assists.
Ajax coach Johnny Heitinga has two players in the treatment room ahead of the second leg. Midfielder Youri Baas is a doubt due to an injury issue. Heitinga could also be without defender Ahmetcan Kaplan following a knee injury.
Mohammed Kudus leads Ajax in goals with 13 in all competitions. Brian Brobbery and Steven Bergwijn have combined for 21 goals in all competitions. Dusan Tadic leads the team in assists with 13.
Union Berlin vs Ajax H2H
The first leg of the Europa League last-16 playoffs between Union Berlin and Ajax was the first meeting between the clubs. The match finished nil-nil, but Union Berlin had their chances to score goals.
Union recorded 13 shots with three on target away in Amsterdam. Ajax soaked up the pressure and didn’t concede to the Germans. The Amsterdammers managed eight shots but didn’t record a shot on target. It was an incredible stat for a team with plenty of goalscorers and matchwinners in the squad.
Ajax dominated possession with 68%. Union were set on hitting on the counterattack. The Irons committed more fouls, 13 to Ajax’s 12, and recorded more yellow cards, 2-0. The match had a combined seven corner kicks.
Union Berlin have been excellent at the Stadion An der Alten Försterei this season, with a record of 11W-3D-1L in all competitions. Their only home defeat was against Union St Gilloise in the Europa League group stage. Ajax have a record of 9W-4D-3L away from home along with a +18-goal difference.
Union Berlin vs Ajax Betting Tips
The first leg saw just three shots on target combined and all three of those shots on target were Union Berlin’s. The second leg could be low on goals, just like the first match a week ago. Union Berlin are coming off a second straight nil-nil draw in all competitions. The Irons have a massive top-of-the-table Bundesliga clash with Bayern Munich at the weekend.
Fischer will want to win the second leg of the Europa League playoff against Ajax. So, don’t expect him to focus on Bayern at the weekend and give up the Europa League.
Ajax are a higher-scoring team although they didn’t show it in the first leg. Two of Ajax’s last three matches in all competitions finished with over 2.5 goals. However, both matches were played in the Eredivisie, a high-scoring league by nature.
Bookmakers believe the match will finish with under 2.5 goals and have offered the odds of 8/11 for under 2.5 goals. Based on the first leg’s lack of goals and shots on target, Thursday’s second leg could finish with a low total of goals. Bookmakers have both teams not to score at odds of 10/11. The odds on Union to win on penalties are 9/1, while Ajax have been offered at 9/1 to win on penalties as well. The defensive play from the first leg is likely to continue in the second.
Union Berlin vs Ajax Prediction
Union Berlin saw their last two matches in all competitions finish nil-nil. Can the Irons hold Ajax scoreless for another match? It seems almost impossible, but few fans would have given Berlin’s second team a chance in the first leg.
Fischer will play his strongest side and set up the team as normal. You can expect a 3-5-2 formation with the midfield clogging up the centre of the pitch and forcing Ajax wide. Heitinga will play 4-2-3-1 with Tadic likely playing as a lone striker. Kudus should be deployed as a No 10 behind Tadic.
Ajax should dominate possession, as Union soak up pressure to hit on the counterattack. The second leg may unfold just like the first match did. The game could finish as a draw once more with extra time needed.
Perhaps the biggest benefit to Ajax in the match is the relatively small squad Fischer must use. Fatigue could play a part, as Ajax qualify for the Europa League last-16 proper at odds of 6/5. Our betting tips prediction is for a full-time draw and possibly penalties needed to sort out the team that progresses.