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Ajax v Aston Villa: Tips, Predictions & Odds

Having employed a manager with four Europa League triumphs on his record, there was little chance that Unai Emery would take Aston Villa's Europa Conference League quest lightly.

Some may see it as an unnecessary distraction as Villa have a fine chance to claim a top-four spot in the Premier League this season, but Emery's team should be firing on all cylinders in the first leg of their last-16 tie at Ajax.

The Dutch side almost used to take domestic honours for granted and it is only five seasons since they fell in the Champions League semi-finals to Tottenham, but these are hard times and they find themselves fifth in the Eredivisie.

John Van’t Schip’s team also lost twice to Brighton in their Europa League group, so progressing against another Premier League outfit looks to be tricky for the Amsterdam outfit.

Ajax v Aston Villa

Ajax v Aston Villa betting tips and predictions

Aston Villa & both teams to score - 15/8

Villa have established a five-point cushion ahead of Tottenham in the race for fourth spot in the Premier League as they have recovered from a slight slump, and they can build on strong recent fortunes.

Wins against Fulham, Nottingham Forest and Luton means they should have little to fear as they head to Amsterdam, but there are a few concerns at the back as they have kept just one clean sheet in their last seven outings and that came against bottom-of-the-table Sheffield United.

Ajax have won just one of their five European home matches this season and Brighton, who are five places below Villa in the Premier League standings, left the Johan Cruijff Arena with a 2-0 victory, so it seems a trip to face the Dutch side is not as daunting as it would have been a few years ago.

Van’t Schip’s outfit ended a run of 16 games without a clean sheet when they beat Utrecht at the weekend, and they look capable of threatening the Villa defence.

However, Emery’s side have displayed their resilience in the last few weeks and, although they may concede, they can claim an advantage to take back to Villa Park next week.

Ollie Watkins to score - 11/10

Villa’s Amsterdam assault should be led by Ollie Watkins, who has hit a rich vein of form at just the right time not just for their push for Champions League qualification, but also for his potential involvement in England’s Euro 2024 challenge.

The former Brentford striker has found the net in five of Villa’s last six matches and five times in their last three away games.

That run included both goals in the 2-1 win at Fulham and a brace in Saturday’s win over Luton, and he displayed his liking for this competition in their opening game with a hat-trick in their 5-0 win at Hibs.

Watkins was also on the mark in the 4-1 win at AZ Alkmaar, against a team who are four points ahead of Ajax in the Dutch table and who beat Van’t Schip’s team 2-0 the week before last.

Steven Berghuis to have a shot on target - 10/11

Ajax’s record of one win in their six Europa League group matches is pretty underwhelming, but they will have to be positive on Thursday in order to try and take something into the return game in Birmingham.

That is where Steven Berghuis could be a prominent player and odds of 10/11 about him having a shot on target are attractive enough to tack.

He has had 16 shots on target in league games this season, despite playing the equivalent of 15 matches in terms of minutes on the pitch, and he has also tested the goalkeeper in four of the five appearances he made in the Europa League group stage.

In all, there have been just four occasions in his last 19 Ajax appearances that he has failed to register a shot on target.

So, with the Dutch side anxious to have something to show for their efforts in the home leg, Berghuis could provide the main thrust of their attack.

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Ajax v Aston Villa odds

Ajax - 4/1
Draw -
Aston Villa -

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This article was written by a partner sports writer via Spotlight Sports Group. All odds displayed on this page were correct at the time of writing and are subject to withdrawal or change at any time.

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