Ajax welcome Lyon to the Amsterdam Arena on Wednesday and the two teams will be looking to get off to the best possible start in this first leg as they look to make it to the finals of the Europa League. Neither Ajax nor Lyon have one the Europa League, but Ajax team did win the tournament back in 1992 when it was called the UEFA Cup.
A cause for concern for Lyon ahead of this crucial Europa League match is that Ajax have never lost to the French club in their previous encounters. Ajax won both their group stage matches against them during the 2002/03 Champions League campaign and recorded two draws against them in the 2011/12 Champions League group stage.
However, since losing to them in the 2002/03 Champions League campaign, Lyon have gone eight matches unbeaten in European competition against Dutch sides. They won four and drew four, which also includes two wins against AZ Alkmaar in the round of 32 of the Europa League this season which they won 11-2 on aggregate.
So, it's fair to say that both teams have an equal chance to progress to the finals of the Europa League based on past matches. But after Ajax managed to defeat FC Schalke 04 in extra time in the quarter-finals despite being reduced to 10 men, they might give them a slight physiological advantage. Defender Joel Veltman is set to miss this match due to the red card he received against FC Schalke 04.
Ajax have more defensive issues top deal with as Nick Viergever is suspended for this match. Jairo Riedewald and Kenny Tete are expected to take the place of the two suspended defenders while Daley Sinkgraven and Bertrand Traoré are a doubt.
"There are only good teams in the semi-finals. Lyon definitely fit that description and so do Ajax. We'll need to be in top form in both matches in order to reach the final, and that's what we're planning to do," UEFA.com quoted Ajax manager Peter Bosz as saying.
"The Eredivisie doesn't distract us from the Europa League, that's something we have been dealing with all year – and it's no different in these last few weeks of the season. We will have to give our all, everything we have, to end the season on a high. It all starts with this Europa League match."
Lyon were up against Turkish club Besiktas in the quarter-finals and after Lyon won the first leg 2-1, the Turkish club managed to level the score line in the second leg but they ended up losing on penalties. Lyon have not been in the best of form domestically ahead of this match. They lost to Monaco and juts managed to scrap through a win against Angers.
To make things worse for the French club, their top goal scorer Alexandre Lacazette is a big doubt for this match as he also missed their win against Angers. Midfielder Corentin Tolisso is also not fit and he faces a race against time to be ready for this match. Maciej Rybus is ruled out as he is short on match fitness.
Lyon manager Bruno Genesio said that he admired Ajax when he was young and it was a pleasure to play them but did not want his players to get complacent and wanted to them to make the most of their chances.
"We have to take our chances and to play our own game, like we did at Beşiktaş. It should be an open match against a really good side who play attacking football with some really fast players. Whatever happens tomorrow, we will still have the second leg to play," Genesio said.
"But I don't want my players to be complacent. Ajax are a great club. They were a team that caught my imagination when I was young. It is a pleasure to play a European semi-final here."
Where to watch
The Europa League semi-final first leg match between Ajax and Lyon is set to start at 5.45 local time, 10.15 IST and 12.45pm EST.
TV and live streaming information
India: TV: Ten 1. Live streaming: Sony Liv.
UK: TV: BT Sports 3. Live streaming: BT Sports live streaming.
USA: TV: Fox Sports 2. Live streaming: Fox Sports GO.
France: TV: beIN Sports 1. Live streaming: beIN SPORTS CONNECT France
Netherlands: TV: RTL 7, Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports 2
Africa: TV: SuperSport 5. Live streaming: SuperSport live.
Middle East: TV: beIN Sports Arabia. Live Streaming: beIN SPORTS CONNECT