Real Madrid head into tonight’s final Group D Champions League match against Ajax knowing that they will end the night and group stages in second place, but Ajax are in contention to grab the group’s Europa League place if they equal or better Manchester City’s result against Borussia Dortmund.
In last season’s campaign, Ajax were denied a place in the last 16 by Madrid when they were defeated at home, and they have found it difficult to muster any success against the La Liga champions in recent years, so they will be looking to put an end to that as they lock horns tonight.
But preparations could have gone better for Frank de Boer and his men as Ryan Babel suffered a setback in his rehabilitation from an incident in which he dislocated his shoulder against PEC Zwolle in November.
“I will be back after the winter break,” said Babel to De Telegraaf.
“The injury itself is not so bad but with shoulder injuries you have to be careful.”
Babel’s absence may provide an opportunity for Danny Hoesen to have a run in the side, and he could be included after scoring in Ajax’s win against PSV at the weekend.
Meanwhile, Cristiano Ronaldo and co cannot win the group even if they win and Dortmund lose to Manchester City because of their inferior head-to-head record, so it is possible that Jose Mourinho could rest some key players at the Bernabeu.
Alvaro Arbeloa will definitely miss the match through suspension, which could pave the way for defender Raphael Varane to have his chance to impress, and it is thought that ex-Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso will be rested along with Serfio Ramos.
But Mourinho has never been one to accept anything less than hard work and victories in every match his teams contest, so it won’t be a surprise if he names a reasonably strong side still, with the likes of Ronaldo and Luka Modric likely to play some part.