Despite his side being guaranteed to finish second in Champions League Group D, Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho looks set to still field a strong lineup as they round off the group phase with the visit of Ajax.
Madrid have taken eight points from their opening five fixtures, but cannot overhaul Borussia Dortmund at the top of the standings after taking just one point from two matches against the German champions. Yet, Mourinho believes it is important to keep momentum going after a 2-0 victory over rivals Atletico Madrid on Saturday.
“We need to play every match with the same concentration and ambition because every match has the same meaning,” he said, according to UEFA.com. “We must play with the desire to win in our mind.”
Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Sami Khedira and Fabio Coentrao have all been confirmed as starters, although there will also be opportunities for goalkeeper Antonio Adan and defender Nacho.
While Madrid have nothing tangible to play for, the same is not true for opponents Ajax who can secure a place in the Europa League with a victory at the Bernabeu. The Dutch champions currently sit a single point above Manchester City in the standings and need to equal the Premier League side’s result away at Borussia Dortmund in order to continue their participation in continental competition beyond the New Year.
Ajax suffered a resounding 4-1 defeat to Madrid when the two sides met in the Amsterdam Arena back in August. However, in taking four points from two games with Manchester City, Frank de Boer’s young side showed the quality in their ranks.
Although they sit fourth in the Eredivisie, Ajax come into the match in good spirits, having beaten rivals PSV Eindhoven 3-1 on Saturday.
Ajax will be without Ryan Babel, Thulani Serero, Davy Klaassen and Kolbeinn Sigthorsson , although defender Toby Alderweireld is expected to recover from flu.
Real Madrid (probable)
D: Nacho, Varane, Pepe, Coentrao
M: Khedira, Modric
Callejon, Kaka, Ronaldo
D: Van Rhijn, Alderweireld, Moisander, Blind
M: De Jong, Poulsen, Schone
F: Sana, Eriksen, Boerrigter
Prediction: While Madrid will make some changes to their lineup, with the likes of Ronaldo and Benzema there will still be ample quality in their ranks. That could be enough to get the victory over Ajax, despite the Dutch side’s greater imperative to push for the three points.
Real Madrid 2-1 Ajax
Where to watch: The Champions League Group D match kicks-off from the Bernabeu at 2.45 p.m. ET. A live stream will be available via Fox Soccer 2Go.