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Ajax form a worry ahead of Real Madrid date
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  • 11 Feb 19
  • Soccer
  • 4
FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Champions League - Ajax Amsterdam Press Conference - Johan Cruijff Arena, Amsterdam, Netherlands - September 18, 2018   Ajax Amsterdam's Matthijs de Ligt during the press conference   REUTERS/Toussaint Kluiters/File Photo 691px 444px FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Champions League - Ajax Amsterdam Press Conference - Johan Cruijff Arena, Amsterdam, Netherlands - September 18, 2018 Ajax Amsterdam's Matthijs de Ligt during the press conference REUTERS/Toussaint Kluiters/File Photo

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Ajax Amsterdam's promising young cast rekindled memories of past glories by reaching the Champions League last 16 but Saturday's league defeat has underlined their recent poor form and set the alarm bells ringing with the upcoming visit of Real Madrid.

The 1-0 loss at Heracles Almelo was only the second time Ajax had been beaten by the provincial team but was marked by players arguing with each other in a defeat teenage captain Matthijs de Ligt termed “scandalous”.

A repeat performance against Real Madrid in Wednesday's first leg would be fatal to their chances of progressing in Europe's top club competition.

“We cannot afford to play as we did against Heracles. If we do so we will be slaughtered. For Ajax to be outplayed by Heracles is scandalous,” De Ligt told reporters.

Just months ago, Ajax were being lauded after finishing behind Bayern Munich in the group phase, eliminating Benfica and AEK Athens. They were also breathing down the necks of PSV Eindhoven in the Dutch league race, hoping to end a four-year title drought.

But since returning from the winter break, Ajax have won only twice in five outings, including a 6-2 defeat at arch rivals Feyenoord, and slipped six points off the pace in the Dutch championship.

Dutch newspapers have been quick to offer reasons for their recent struggles.

“Ajax do not look to have the mental strength to stand up to Real,” was the scathing summation of former Dutch international Wim van Hanegem in his regular column on Monday.

Others have speculated about the side being plagued by too much individualism, blamed a porous defence and said manager Erik ten Hag had his hands tied by a restrictive transfer policy.

Frenkie de Jong has also come in for criticism. The midfielder is heading to Barcelona at the end of the season after his 86 million euros (75 million pounds) transfer agreement but he has not been living up to that price tag.

Dusan Tadic feels all is not lost, however.

“I believe we can still beat anyone," said the midfielder at the weekend. "Others might be talking about how badly we are playing now but we must go out and show we can still do it.”

(Writing by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

2018 English PL Fixtures & Results

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2018/2019 Premier League
2018/2019 UEFA Champions League
2018/2019 UEFA Europa League
2018/2019 A-League
2018/2019 Ligue 1
2018/2019 Bundesliga
2018/2019 La Liga
2018/2019 Primeira Liga
2017/2018 Serie A
2018 World Cup
2018 English PL Standings

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  • Group
  • e
Pts P W D L GF GA +/- Pts
1 Manchester City MAC 65 27 21 2 4 74 20 +54 65
2 Liverpool LIV 65 26 20 5 1 59 15 +44 65
3 Tottenham Hotspur TOT 60 26 20 0 6 54 25 +29 60
4 Manchester United MUN 51 26 15 6 5 52 35 +17 51
5 Arsenal ARS 50 26 15 5 6 53 37 +16 50
6 Chelsea CHE 50 26 15 5 6 45 29 +16 50
7 Wolverhampton Wanderers WOL 39 26 11 6 9 34 33 +1 39
8 Watford WAT 37 26 10 7 9 34 34 0 37
9 Everton EVE 33 27 9 6 12 36 39 -3 33
10 West Ham United WES 33 26 9 6 11 32 39 -7 33
11 AFC Bournemouth BOU 33 26 10 3 13 37 47 -10 33
12 Leicester City LEI 32 26 9 5 12 31 34 -3 32
13 Crystal Palace CRY 27 26 7 6 13 27 34 -7 27
14 Brighton & Hove Albion BRI 27 26 7 6 13 28 39 -11 27
15 Burnley BUR 27 26 7 6 13 29 47 -18 27
16 Newcastle United NEW 25 26 6 7 13 22 34 -12 25
17 Cardiff City CAR 25 26 7 4 15 24 47 -23 25
18 Southampton SOU 24 26 5 9 12 28 44 -16 24
19 Fulham FUL 17 26 4 5 17 25 58 -33 17
20 Huddersfield Town HUD 11 26 2 5 19 14 48 -34 11
*e1 & e2 advances to R16, e3 possible R16
2018/2019 Premier League
2018/2019 UEFA Champions League
2018/2019 UEFA Europa League
2018/2019 A-League
2018/2019 Ligue 1
2018/2019 Bundesliga
2018/2019 La Liga
2018/2019 Primeira Liga
2017/2018 Serie A
2018 World Cup
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