Advancing to the knockout phase of the Champions League was always going to be a long shot for both Celtic and Ajax, as the pair are stuck in a group with Barcelona and AC Milan. If either were to advance, taking at least four points—and probably six—from the other would almost certainly be required.
They'll get their first crack at one another on Tuesday in Group H action. Ajax is somewhat ahead of the eight ball after taking a point against AC Milan, while Celtic has lost both of their games and failed to score a goal in the group stage.
Will either team improve their odds of moving out of a tough group on Tuesday? Or will they draw and make the battle to knock out either Milan or Barcelona all the more unlikely?
When: Tuesday, October 22 at 2:45 p.m. ET (7:45 p.m. BST)
Where: Celtic Park, Glasgow, Scotland
Celtic will come into this key Champions League contest an important man down, as Kris Commons will be unable to play with a hamstring injury, joining other players such as Scott Brown (suspension), Adam Matthews and possibly Emilio Izaguirre in the stands.
Not surprisingly, Celtic have yet to lose in the Scottish Premier League, with seven wins and two draws after nine games. They'll hope to parlay their momentum from that competition into the Champions League.
Ajax have not had as much luck domestically, currently in fourth place in the Eredivisie table after 10 matches (though they have the same amount of points as PSV and PSE Zwolle and trail FC Twente by just a point). For the famous Dutch side, a win at Celtic Park could spark momentum in their league campaign as well.
Of course, sides know how important this fixture is, including Ajax manager Frank de Boer (via BBC Sport):
A draw will maybe be enough because two weeks later we play Celtic at the Amsterdam Arena. If we win that game, maybe it would be difficult for Celtic to get third place. To lose this game would give Celtic a great advantage so we want to get three points at Celtic Park.
I think Celtic are favorites for this game. The level between both clubs is even and they are playing at home with the fans behind them.
But after the last whistle we will see if they were favorites or not.
Here's your key stat, courtesy of Eurosport—Celtic have won seven of their last 10 home games in European fixtures, while Ajax have lost their last five away matches in Champions League play.
From a talent perspective, you might like Ajax to at least earn a draw in this match, but Celtic is a very dangerous team at home and only conceded a single goal to Barcelona in Glasgow in their first Champions League group match. That shouldn't be overestimated.
Ajax will give them a handful, but Celtic will win this crucial fixture, 1-0.
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