Opponents Liverpool, Napoli and Rangers in the spotlight: Ajax draw as beautiful as it is tough | European Football

With Liverpool, Napoli and Rangers, Ajax will meet equally beautiful and tough opponents in group A of the Champions League.

Liverpool: Champions League finalist with Ajax tormentor in the striker
With Liverpool, Ajax will meet just about the best opponent in pot 2. The finalist of the past Champions League season may have started the season quite poorly, there is no doubt about the strength of trainer Jürgen Klopp’s team. However, the German trainer had to repair work in his attack line where star player Sadio Mané has left. The Senegalese has been replaced by Darwin Nuñez, an Ajax tormentor from a very recent past. Last season, the striker was still responsible for the elimination of Ajax in the Champions League on behalf of Benfica by scoring the only goal in Amsterdam during the return of the eighth finals.

Jurgen Klopp and Fabio Carvalho. © REUTERS

Injuries and suspensions provide a false start for last season’s number two in the Premier League. The injuries of Joel Matip, Ibrahima Konaté, Thiago Alcântara are to blame for this, but when Ajax meets Liverpool later, those basic players will probably be back and Orange captain Virgil van Dijk will have found his normal form again. Ajax already met Liverpool two years ago in the context of the Champions League. The team from Amsterdam lost to the English twice, both times in a sinister decor without spectators because of corona. Legendary as in 1966, when Ajax won 5-1 in the fog, it never became.

Napoli: Dries Mertens-loos Napoli back at the highest European level
With two victories in as many matches and nine goals in total, Napoli has started this season in the Serie A. And that while the Southern Italians have started their Dries Mertens-less era. The Belgian who even surpassed Diego Maradona in Napoli in terms of goals scored for the club left for Galatasaray. But there is still plenty to enjoy in the Diego Maradona Stadium. With Victor Osimhen, former PSV player Hirving Lozano and the Georgian talent Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, for example, the vanguard is particularly explosive.

Hirving Lozano.
Hirving Lozano. © DeFodi Images via Getty Images

In the back, the departure of Kalidou Koulibaly hurts, but the sturdy South Korean Kim Min-Jae already seems to be a good replacement. Trainer Luciano Spalletti led Napoli back to Champions League football for the first time since the 2019/2020 season last season, finishing third in Serie A, behind Milan and Internazionale but ahead of the hated Juventus. Nine points at least. In the recent past, Napoli has survived the group stage of the tournament as many times as it has been knocked out. Only once before there was a (double) confrontation between Ajax and Napoli. That was in the 1969/1970 season for the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, the predecessor of the UEFA Cup. Napoli then won 1-0 at home, but Ajax then won 4-0 in De Meer after extra time.

Rangers: Europa League finalist who only knows Champions League anthem from very early on
The video of partying Rangers players with Giovanni van Bronckhorst as the radiant centerpiece in the guest changing room of the PSV stadium only just went around the world when the Scottish club knew that it has to go to the Netherlands again soon. Due to the recent match against PSV for a place in the Champions League, the Europa League finalist will have few secrets for Ajax, which saw a talented youth coach leave for Rangers with Dave Vos last season. He is now assistant to Van Bronckhorst. And Ajax fished in a Rangers defender again this summer.

Giovanni van Bronckhorst.
Giovanni van Bronckhorst. © ANP

Calvin Bassey already impressed during his first matches for Ajax. Playing in the Champions League is a sweet memory for Rangers FC from a long time ago. The club has fallen far in recent years and last played on the highest European stage in 2010. Once, Rangers and Ajax met in an official European context. The match in October 1996 went down in the books as the match in which Dani showed himself to the football world. The Portuguese midfielder (mistakenly with Carvalho on the back) made two in a 4-1 win in which Paul Gascoigne had to go off the field with a red card. Dani was rarely as good as that night after that.