Can the tournament favourites make it past the Dutch giants? We look ahead to this UEFA Europa Conference League last-16 second leg with our Aston Villa vs Ajax prediction and preview.

Aston Villa vs Ajax Stats: The Quick Hits

  • The Opta supercomputer predicts Aston Villa will get through to the quarter-finals, winning the second leg inside 90 minutes in 69.1% of pre-match simulations.
  • Unai Emery’s side have won all three of their home games in this season’s UEFA Europa Conference League so far.
  • Ajax have won just two of their last nine games in all competitions (D5 L2), one of which was beating Bodø/Glimt in the play-off round of this competition after extra-time.

Match Preview

On paper, it was undoubtedly the tie of the round. Two former European Cup winners clashing in the Europa Conference League, with internationals all over the pitch and one of European football’s most decorated managers in the dugout in Unai Emery.

Naturally, the first leg between Ajax and Aston Villa was dull as dishwater and finished 0-0.

Ajax v Aston Villa stats

Things only livened up late on when Ezri Konsa was sent off for the visitors, soon to be followed by Ajax’s Tristan Gooijer. Both will be suspended for the return leg in England on Thursday, where something has got to give.

Villa are the tournament favourites – with the Opta supercomputer giving them a 26.4% chance of lifting the trophy in May – but speaking to the media on Wednesday, Emery was wary of such talk.

“Europe is prestigious, it’s a UEFA trophy,” he said. “It’s adding another objective in our season and it’s very important for the players. We are doing a very big effort, we are getting better and now is a key moment. We were speaking this morning about who is favourite, but in Europe it’s very difficult to be favourites.

“We didn’t show we are favourites [last week]. They showed us there they want to beat us and get something in this competition.”

Ollie Watkins will be looking to fire his team into the last eight of the Europa Conference League, carrying on the form that has seen him record 31 goal involvements (21 goals, 10 assists) in 39 games in all competitions. That includes scoring two goals in five games in this competition, the joint-highest for Villa along with John McGinn.

Ollie Watkins xG Conference League

As well as Konsa, Emery will also be without Nicolo Zaniolò due to suspension, while he confirmed on Wednesday that Jacob Ramsey remains unavailable due to a foot injury.

Teenagers Mika Godts and Silvano Vos are back in Ajax’s travelling squad after missing out on Sunday’s game against Fortuna Sittard.

Captain Jordan Henderson said after that 2-2 draw: “We just didn’t play well. We kept at it, but sadly we just couldn’t break through once [Brian] Brobbey scored [a late equaliser]. We now have to dust ourselves off and start concentrating on Villa.”

Interim boss John van ‘t Schip will be hoping his team can improve on recent form that has seen Ajax win just two of their last nine games in all competitions (D5 L2), which includes being taken to extra-time by Bodø/Glimt in the Europa Conference League play-off round only to win 2-1 before penalties were necessary.

Aston Villa vs Ajax Head-to-Head

Apart from their 0-0 draw in Amsterdam last week, the only previous meeting between these two teams also came in the UEFA Cup back in 2008-09.

Aston Villa won the game 2-1 at Villa Park thanks to goals from Martin Laursen and Gareth Barry either side of Thomas Vermaelen’s equaliser for the visitors.

Recent Form

Aston Villa remain very much in the hunt for Champions League qualification, though they come into this game on the back of a demoralising 4-0 thrashing at home by Tottenham on Sunday.

A poor start to 2024 that saw them win just two of their first seven games of the year (D2 L3) seemed to be behind them when Villa won three on the spin prior to last week’s 0-0 draw in Amsterdam. They’ll be hoping to start another winning run here to take them into the quarter-finals.

As mentioned, Ajax are themselves on a poor run of form. A terrible start to the season from the Dutch giants that saw them flirting with relegation improved from November onwards, and they now find themselves in fifth place in the Eredivisie.

However, their last away game saw them lose 2-0 to AZ in the league, while their only win other than the play-off second leg against Bodø/Glimt was a 2-0 victory over Utrecht just before they hosted Villa. Sunday saw them draw 2-2 at home to Fortuna Sittard, with Brian Brobbey scoring a late equaliser following Kenneth Taylor’s early opener.

Opta Power Rankings

The Opta Power Rankings are a global team ranking system that assigns an ability score to over 13,000 domestic football teams on a scale between zero and 100, where zero is the worst-ranked team in the world and 100 is the best team in the world.

Ahead of kick-off on Thursday night, here is the Opta Power Ranking for both sides.

Aston Villa vs Ajax Prediction

Villa v Ajax Opta predictor

Aston Villa have won all three home games in this season’s competition, and the Opta supercomputer gives them a 69.1% chance of getting another victory in 90 minutes here, while Ajax have a more modest 13.6% likelihood of a win.

The draw has a 17.3% chance, which would send it to extra-time and possibly penalties. Villa’s overall chance of advancing is 80.4% to Ajax’s 19.6%.

Whether Emery wants to admit it or not, Villa are favourites to win the whole thing. The supercomputer has them at 26.4% to lift the trophy in Athens.

Ajax are given just a 1.0% chance, but expect that to shoot up if they get through this tie.

Europa Conference League Predictor

Aston Villa vs Ajax UECL Squads

Aston Villa: Emiliano Martínez, Joe Gauci, Robin Olsen, Matty Cash, Diego Carlos, Lucas Digne, Pau Torres, Álex Moreno, Clément Lenglet, Boubacar Kamara, Douglas Luiz, John McGinn, Youri Tielemans, Timothy Iroegbunam, Ollie Watkins, Moussa Diaby, Leon Bailey, Jhon Duran, Morgan Rogers.

Head Coach: Unai Emery

Ajax: Diant Ramaj, Gerónimo Rulli, Remko Pasveer, Jay Gorter, Devyne Rensch, Anton Gaaei, Jorrel Hato, Ahmetcan Kaplan, Jakov Medic, Borna Sosa, Gastón Ávila, Josip Šutalo, Jordan Henderson, Kenneth Taylor, Sivert Mannsverk, Branco van den Boomen, Silvano Vos, Kian Fitz-Jim, Benjamin Tahirović, Brian Brobbey, Chuba Akpom, Carlos Borges, Julian Rijkhoff, Kristian Hlynsson, Mika Godts.

Head Coach: John van ‘t Schip

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