Balotelli El Shaarawy AC Milan
Stephan El Shaarawy and Mario Balotelli celebrate a goal against Livorno, December 7. Reuters
Stephan El Shaarawy and Mario Balotelli celebrate a goal against Livorno, December 7. Reuters
Stephan El Shaarawy and Mario Balotelli celebrate a goal against Livorno, December 7. Reuters

Follow our LIVE coverage of all Wednesday's Champions League action including Napoli v Arsenal and Steaua Bucharest v Chelsea right here. 

AC Milan and Ajax face off in a crunch Group H encounter of the Champions League at the San Siro on Thursday.

The group is nicely poised with second place up for grabs, with the deciding factor set to be the result between Milan and Ajax.

The Italian side will go through to the knockout stages along with already-qualified Barcelona with a draw on Wednesday, while Ajax, who are on seven points, one less than Milan, need a victory to ensure progress to the last 16.

"Tomorrow's [Wednesday's] game is crucial and we will approach it in a determined manner," Milan manager Massimiliano Allegri said. "A draw will be enough for us, but our aim is to win. The stakes are very high so we'll need to concentrate -- we can't afford to play for a draw.

"They [Ajax] are a young side in good form, but we're the home team. We have to be aggressive and competitive to win the match. So far we've performed well in the Champions League, but we'll need to go up a level tomorrow. The team will have to be patient in possession and the fans have an important role to play."

Ajax pulled off a memorable win over Barcelona in the last Champions League matchday. Reuters
Ajax pulled off a memorable win over Barcelona in the last Champions League matchday. Reuters

Ajax are on a brilliant run at the moment, with six straight wins in all competitions, and manager Frank De Boer is quietly confident his side can extend that run to seven, particularly after pulling off that impressive 2-1 result against Barcelona in the last matchday.

"Milan are at home and they are a great team," Allegri said. "Both sides have an equal chance of winning and getting through -- I would say 50-50. They have improved a lot lately, but we are also doing well. If we play at our level we can get three points. They will try to defend and keep the ball.

"We have prepared as we do for all our games. Obviously there is tension and some younger players may feel more of that tension, but this pressure has to become a positive. Playing this kind of game is important for a player because he can improve and become stronger. It is an important experience for them."

Team news: Milan: Allegri was boosted by the return of Stephan El Shaarawy, who made a substitute appearance in the 2-2 draw with Livorno at the weekend, after three months out. Ignazio Abate, Robinho and Valter Birsa, however, are ruled out, but Mattia De Sciglio should be available.

Ajax: Nicolai Boilesen remains sidelined for the Dutch giants, along with Kolbeinn Sigthorsson and Siem De Jong.

Key men: Milan: Mario Balotelli has had an up and down season so far, but after scoring a brace at the weekend the temperamental Italian will be feeling in top form.

Ajax: Davy Klaasen impressed all with a brilliant hat-trick against NAC Breda at the weekend, a performance which prompted the likes of Arsenal to have a closer look. The 20-year-old, dubbed as the "new Dennis Bergkamp" will be keen to impress in club football's biggest stage.

Where to Watch Live

The game is scheduled for a 1.15 am IST start on Thursday morning with no live coverage in India. You can also catch the match via live streaming by clicking HERE. Viewers in the U.S. can do the same by clicking HERE. To catch the action courtesy live streaming in the U.K., click HERE. Middle East and North Africa viewers click HERE.

Expected lineups: Milan: Gabriel; De Sciglio, Zapata, Mexes, Emanuelson; Nocerino, Montolivo, De Jong; El Shaarawy, Kaka; Balotelli.

Ajax: Cillessen; Van Rhijn, Veltman, Moisander, Ligeon; Klaassen, Blind, Serero; Schone, Hoesen, Fischer.

Prediction: 2-1 to Ajax