Ajax aren’t the force they were last year, but it’s never a good idea to use their domestic form to guess their European success.
It’s a bit like Liverpool: some teams are just more suited to playing on the continent where the press isn’t as organised, where the technical ability is on full display and those lights are just that bit brighter.
If you’re a Chelsea fan, you might complain about inconsistency but you get that with every young player – and Chelsea have a boatload of them. While this Edwin van der Sar-developed group isn’t quite the Champions League final nearly-boys of 2018/19, there’s enough in there to make Chelsea sweat.
Lampard’s selection headaches to date could cause even more pain here, as he won’t know whether to field his strongest XI or to hand some minutes for much-needed experience among the fringe players. He knows he won’t be winning this tournament, so this could be seen as a learning curve.
Pick: Ajax to win – 13/10
Bar Man City and Liverpool, I’d back Inter Milan to beat anyone in Europe right now. As a severe gap is opening in quality between the big two managers and the remainder in England, you can’t help but feel that Antonio Conte would sit comfortably in that chasm, and closer to Pep and co than the likes of Graham Potter.
A combination of attacking flair and defensive resolve, Inter are as balanced as they have been since winning this very tournament under Jose Mourinho, while only the hipsters of the world are clinging on to Dortmund, unsure what do as their hero Jurgen manages a world power in Liverpool.
May I suggest the Europa League tomorrow, gents? Ferencvaros are playing.
Pick: Inter to win – 6/5
Grab the insurance here and cash in on the above double if this doesn’t come off, but it’s hard to not stare down Napoli at this price, especially with the security of a void should they fall short.
This will be a terrific clash of styles, as Red Bull’s slow build-up play should play into the hands of an electric Napoli side who opt to play on the break.
While Salzburg are currently being scouted by every major club in Europe for their young talent, it’s easy to forget that they’re an actual football club behind it all, reliant on results. Which is unfortunate for them, because they’re absolute s**te.
- Ajax v Chelsea: Ajax to win – 13/10
- Inter v Dortmund: Inter to win – 6/5
- Salzburg v Napoli: Napoli (Draw No Bet) – 4/5
A £/€1 treble on these three selections returns £/€9.11 including stake on paddypower.com. Odds correct at time of posting, subject to change.