Ajax vs. Roma Odds, Picks, Betting Preview for Thursday Europa League (April 8)
Rico Brouwer/Soccrates/Getty Images. Pictured: Ajax standout Sean Klaiber.
- Dutch powerhouse Ajax hosts Italian stalwart Roma in Thursday's Europa League action.
- The visitors have struggled in Serie A as of late, so this could be their lone shot at reaching next season's Champions League.
- Anthony Dabbundo breaks down the match below and explains why he's expecting the offenses to shine in this contest.
Ajax vs. Roma Odds
|Over/Under||2.5 (-150 / +123)|
|Day | Time||Thursday | 3 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Wednesday afternoon via DraftKings.|
While the Champions League often steals the spotlight from the Europa League, Europe’s second tier international club competition has some scintillating quarterfinal matchups on Thursday’s card, highlighted by an interesting showdown between Ajax and Roma.
The Serie A side has fallen off in league form, with its best shot to qualify for Champions League next year might be via winning this competition. However, Ajax — one of the top Dutch outfits — will be its toughest test yet.
Dating back to the UCL group stage, Ajax has had little issue creating plenty of chances in Europe. Despite being in a tough group with Atalanta and Liverpool, manager Erik ten Hag’s side posted 1.9 expected goals against Atalanta; 1.4 xG at home versus Liverpool; and, 1.3 xG at Liverpool.
The Sons of the Gods steamrolled through the first two rounds of the Europa League knockout round as well, despite facing two solid defenses. French side Lille futures one of the best back lines in all of Europe, but Ajax posted 3.7 xG over two legs and advanced rather comfortably. Against Young Boys, Ajax totaled more than 3 xG in each leg.
The Ajax attack plays a lot of quick passes, aiming to possess and pass through opponents rather than rely on crosses or creation from the wings. Roma allows the third-fewest crosses into the penalty area in the Italian top flight, which is fine because it’s not how Ajax will look to attack anyway.
Roma does allow the fifth-highest pass completion rate in the division, which is a concern when trying to defend Ajax and its team of plus passers.
Defensively, Ajax will be without first-choice goalkeeper Andre Onana and could be without second option Martin Stekelenberg as well. Daley Blind, who is excellent at ball progression and ball-winning as a center back, is unlikely to feature. Fullback Noussair Mazaroui is also out, so ten Hag will have no choice but to start some backup defenders.
The Yellow and Reds are dealing with plenty of injuries at the back, which could weaken their defense even further in this match. They’ve dealt with subpar goalkeeper play and inconsistent defending in Serie A all season.
Chris Smalling, Roger Ibanez and Marash Kumbulla are all out. Manager Paulo Fonesca doesn’t have three healthy center backs to play his customary three–at-the-back formation, because of suspensions and injuries.
That’s especially troubling when you examine how Roma has defended in recent games. Sassuolo picked apart Roma’s defense with 3.2 xG and two goals. Prior to the international break, Napoli scored two early goals and sat comfortably on its lead. Parma posted more than two xG in the match prior to that.
That said, Roma is dealing with significant xG regression in its attack and that’s worrisome given how vulnerable it might be to Ajax’s pressing and possessing of the ball. Inexperienced center backs against ten Hag’s side is a recipe for a defensive error or two leading to chances.
Betting Analysis & Pick
There’s no reason this shouldn’t be a free flowing and attacking first leg. In normal years, opening legs tend to be a bit more cautious from the home side to prevent conceding the away goal. However, because of limited or no crowds at all, the home-field advantage has been significantly less.
This changes how teams approach the first legs and Ajax will be willing to play open in this game. While the number is right with Ajax as a solid favorite, the total is showing too much respect to the defenses.
Roma is more vulnerable to teams passing through it rather than crossing, and Ajax should be able to exploit its recently leaky defense. At the other end, the Yellow and Reds have found success in the past playing over the top of high presses and should be able to do so again.
Pick: Total Over 2.75 Goals (-130 or better) or Total Over 3 Goals (+100 or better)