Last year’s surprise package, Ajax, move closer to the UEFA Champions League group stages after a goalless draw in their first leg qualifying round match against APOEL Nicosia.
We will remember the 2018/19 UEFA Champions League for many things, one of which will be the incredible run of Ajax. The Dutch Eredivisie Champions reached the semi-finals and were 3-0 up with 35-minutes remaining until Lucas Moura scored an incredible hat-trick to send the boys from Amsterdam into full-on Bambi mode.
Despite reaching the semi-finals, and winning their league title for the 34th time, Erik ten Hag’s talented side had to qualify for the 2019/20 Champions League group stages, via the preliminary round schedule.
The shellacking from Spurs leaves Ajax wary of getting ahead of themselves, but they do have a few studs in the group stages. Ajax drew with APOEL Nicosia 0-0 in the first leg of their qualifying round, despite playing the final ten minutes with ten men after Noussair Mazroui saw red.
Should Ajax beat APOEL, they will fall into Pot 2 of the UEFA Champions League draw that takes place in Monaco on Thursday 29th August at 18:00 (CEST). If Ajax loses, then Lyon moves into Pot 2, and APOEL starts in Pot 3.
23-teams are already in a pot.
Teams from the same country cannot play each other in the group stages. The Champions League winners (Liverpool) and Europa League winners (Chelsea) start in Pot 1, as do the six winners of the highest-ranked nations.
All of which means, Real Madrid (UEFA’s top-ranked club side) will begin life in Pot 2, and that’s a headache for everyone except Barcelona.
The winners of the preliminaries fill the final six positions.
Here are the results of the first legs of those preliminaries.
APOEL Nicosia 0 v 0 Ajax
CFR Cluj 0 v 1 Slavia Prague
LASK 0 v 1 Club Brugge
Dinamo Zagreb v Rosenborg
Olympoacos v FC Krasnodar
Young Boys v Crvena Zvezda
Champions League group stage pots
Zenit St Petersburg
Olympiakos or FS Krasnodar
CFR Cluj or Slavia Prague
Champions League odds
Manchester City 4/1
Real Madrid 15/2
Paris Saint-Germain 9/1
Bayern Munich 11/1
Atlético Madrid 20/1
Tottenham Hotspur 20/1
Borussia Dortmund 33/1
Inter Milan 40/1