Edwin van der Sar has compared Matthijs de Ligt to Cristiano Ronaldo, claiming they share a similar mentality to be among the world's best.

De Ligt starred in the youthful Ajax side that reached the Champions League semi-finals last season before joining Ronaldo at Serie A giants Juventus.

Van der Sar played a pivotal part in developing Erik ten Hag's team in his role as Ajax CEO, with prospects such as Frenkie de Jong and Donny van de Beek graduating through the club's famous youth system.

Netherlands international De Ligt has turned in some indifferent performances since moving to Turin and was at fault for Northern Ireland's goal against the Oranje in a Euro 2020 qualifier on Thursday, but Van der Sar has no concerns over the defender's ability to adapt.

"He had been at Ajax all his life," Van der Sar told ESPN. "So to step away, move with your girlfriend and the family to a different city in Italy, he must learn a new language and get to know his team-mates.

"His mentality, that of someone who always tries to improve, makes him want to be the best defender in the world. And I've seen that with a few players, one of them is playing for his team, Cristiano Ronaldo.

"He has the same desire and hunger as De Ligt. Matthijs is only [20 years old]. He was fantastic for us at Ajax, our rock and our captain."

Despite De Ligt's error, Netherlands went on to beat Northern Ireland 3-1 to move top of Group C.

Their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign continues on Sunday as the Nations League runners-up travel to Belarus.

Real Madrid lead the race to sign Donny van de Beek with Manchester United seemingly out of the running for the Ajax player.

Van de Beek, 22, has developed into one of the most wanted midfielders in Europe after impressing with Ajax.

Madrid and United have been among the clubs linked with a move for the Netherlands international, but the Spanish giants are said to be favourites.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID LEAD VAN DE BEEK RACE WITH MAN UNITED UNWILLING TO MEET AJAX DEMANDS

Real Madrid are in pole position to sign Van de Beek as Manchester United have been unwilling to pay big money for the Ajax man, according to the Mirror.

The report says Ajax asked the Premier League club for £35million (€39.3m) three months ago, but they are now seeking £100million (€112.3m) which has not put off Madrid.

Madrid have been linked to numerous midfielders, including United's Paul Pogba.

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- Still linked with Real Madrid, Pogba is also reportedly considering signing a new contract at Manchester United. The Mirror says United have denied they are being held to ransom by Pogba amid reports he is demanding £600,000 per week to sign his new deal.

- Lautaro Martinez scored at Camp Nou on Wednesday and the Inter forward's performance has left Barcelona wanting more. The LaLiga giants' attention has returned to Martinez after the display, according to Sport, with the Argentina international having previously been linked with Barca.

- With Real Madrid eyeing midfielders, Wolves' Ruben Neves is being linked with a switch to the Santiago Bernabeu, claims Don Balon, which says €50million (£44.5m) could be enough to get a deal done.

- Arsenal are willing to pay £49.9million (€56m) for PSV striker Donyell Malen, according to Tuttosport. The 20-year-old was previously in the Premier League club's academy and has attracted interest after netting eight goals in as many Eredivisie games this season.

- Victor Valdes' return to Barcelona appears set to be short-lived. Mundo Deportivo reports the club's under-19s coach, appointed in July, is set to lose his job after a string of disagreements.

Real Madrid are eager to strengthen and moves are set to be made in January.

The LaLiga giants' mixed start to the season continued with a surprise draw against Club Brugge in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Madrid plan to make signings in January – and two midfielders remain on their list.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID WANT JANUARY SIGNINGS AMID ERIKSEN, VAN DE BEEK LINKS

Real Madrid are planning to strengthen their squad in January and Tottenham's Christian Eriksen and Ajax's Donny van de Beek are at the forefront of their thinking, according to Marca.

Eriksen is coming out of contract at the end of the season, while Van de Beek seemingly wants to finish the campaign at Ajax.

While Madrid are top of LaLiga, they have collected just one point from their opening two Champions League games in Group A.


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- Manchester United's main targets seemingly remain unchanged. Sky Sports News reports the Premier League club have Juventus' Mario Mandzukic and Bournemouth's Callum Wilson as their main striker targets ahead of the January window.

- Leicester City are keeping tabs on 15-year-old Turkish midfielder Burak Ince, according to Fotospor. Manchester City are also reportedly interested in the teenager who would cost in the region of £1.3m.

- Spain are still waiting for Ansu Fati. The Barcelona teenager is yet to receive the necessary paperwork to debut for Spain, according to AS. Sport reports authorisation will arrive next week, with a debut for the senior team or Under-21s a possibility.

- The Football Association has requested to see evidence after Liverpool allegedly paid Manchester City £1million after a complaint from the Premier League champions that their scouting system had been hacked, according to The Times.

Sergino Dest will take time to consider his international future as he ponders a switch from the United States to his native Netherlands.

Ajax full-back Dest made his first two USA appearances in a pair of friendlies in September but was not included in the squad for this month's CONCACAF Nations League games against Cuba and Canada.

USA boss Gregg Berhalter confirmed he had held "positive" talks with the 18-year-old but Dest is not ready to commit to featuring in competitive matches, which would bind him to the nation he represented at several youth levels.

Netherlands have expressed interest, with Ronald Koeman said to have engaged the defender in discussions about a change of allegiance.

"I haven't decided yet on either one. I need more time," Dest told Fox Sports after Ajax's victory at Valencia in the Champions League.

"It's a decision I have to make for my entire life, so I want to handle it with care. I need to think carefully, that's why I left it alone this time.

"Hopefully I will have decided by next month but if I need more time I'll take it."

Dest, who was born and raised in the Dutch city of Almere, has been tipped to enjoy a bright future.

Erik ten Hag promoted him to the first team at Ajax this season and has handed the teenager 12 appearances in all competitions.

Donny van de Beek plans to see out the season with Ajax as the Dutch star ruled out a January switch to Real Madrid.

Van de Beek confirmed during the transfer window that Madrid contacted Ajax over a possible deal, but a move to the LaLiga giants did not materialise.

The 22-year-old continues to be linked with Madrid as he stars for Eredivisie holders Ajax, however, the Netherlands international wants to see out 2019-20 in Amsterdam.

"I don't want to leave during the winter break," Van de Beek told Voetbal International.

"I play here all season, I finish at Ajax this year. That gives me clarity and tranquillity. I will see what happens next. 

"Maybe someday in my career it will happen that I switch club during the winter break, but now I don't like it."

Van de Beek scored as Ajax accounted for Valencia 3-0 in the Champions League on Wednesday.

He has netted three goals in all competitions this term, while supplying four assists in Eredivisie.

Erik ten Hag was thrilled with Ajax's clinical display against Valencia, but the head coach claimed his side must improve defensively despite a second successive Champions League clean sheet.

Ajax stormed to a 3-0 victory on Wednesday at the Mestalla, making it two wins from two in Group H for last season's semi-finalists.

Things would have been different had Dani Parejo not wasted a golden chance for Valencia to equalise when he skied a penalty, however – with Quincy Promes soon adding to Hakim Ziyech's early opener to double Ajax's advantage.

Some weak defending allowed Valencia into the contest again early in the second half, but the hosts found Andre Onana in superb form.

Ten Hag acknowledged Ajax, who could still be adjusting to life without Matthijs de Ligt, must improve at the back, though he emphasised the outstanding quality of his attackers.

"There are things that could be better, such as defensively. We had problems there, but they [Valencia] also had problems with us," Ten Hag told reporters.

"We played a fantastic match and deserved to win. I still believe we have some things to improve, but we can play such fantastic football.

"At times on the sideline I can really enjoy us playing football. Not many teams can do this at [the] Mestalla."

Ajax demonstrated their slick play in the build-up to Donny van de Beek's second-half strike – Dusan Tadic slotting a deft reverse pass into the midfielder, who duly wrapped up the win.

Yet Ziyech was the star. His stunning effort opened the scoring eight minutes in, while he also saw a second long-range shot clatter off the crossbar just before half-time.

"Ziyech could excel and we could play him freely. I was hoping for that in advance, so it worked out well," said Ten Hag, who also hailed goalkeeper Onana's performance.

"Multiple players can make a difference. [Onana] is one of them. We also have creativity in attack and can play great football. We have taken a big step but we are not there yet."

As well as Parejo's woeful miss from the spot, Valencia twice hit the post through Rodrigo either side of half-time and coach Albert Celades was left to rue a glut of wasted opportunities. 

"It's a tough loss. It's a heavy defeat, maybe not deserved, but that's what happened," Celades said.

"We had chances in the first half but didn't take them, but we played well. They were more clinical than us.

"It's difficult for all of us but looking deeper than the result we are doing well. The first half was very good but they punished our poor finishing."

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard enjoyed his first Champions League victory as a manager but warned his team: "Now the hard work begins."

A 2-1 victory away to French side Lille made up for some of the disappointment of last month's home defeat to Valencia, and armed Chelsea with points and confidence to take into back-to-back clashes with Ajax.

Tammy Abraham, on his 22nd birthday, and Willian, making his 300th appearance for the club, got Chelsea's goals at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy.

Victor Osimhen netted a header from a corner to bring Lille level at one stage, and the space he found in the centre of the penalty area was a worry for Lampard.

But there were more positives than negatives from the trip to north-east France for Lampard, who captained the Blues to victory in the 2012 final of this competition.

He said: "It feels really good because this was a really hard place to come, and add to that the pressure from not beating Valencia in the first game.

"We played with three at the back and moved the ball really quickly and we got our goal."

The equaliser irked Lampard who said: "Again, set-pieces. It's something we know we have to improve on. We have to do better, but in terms of the game as a whole we had a lot of possession and created chances away from home.

"Set-pieces are a fact that happen in games, and games can absolutely change on them, and today did a little bit because I felt pretty comfortable in the first half, so we must work maybe more than we are already and turn that corner."

Now Ajax await Chelsea, the Dutch giants and last season's semi-finalists having won 3-0 so far against both Lille and Valencia.

"It'll be really tough and now Ajax have set their stall out, they've started the group really well," Lampard told BT Sport.

"To be on zero points after one game is one thing; to come away tonight against a tough team knowing that every game is going to be tough would have been another.

"It gives us confidence, it gives us points, it gives us a feeling in the group that we're in a better position, but now the hard work begins. Every game is going to be really tough. We have a double-header with Ajax who are playing well so it's on us."

Ajax kept up their winning start in Champions League Group H as Dani Parejo's penalty miss proved costly for Valencia in a 3-0 away victory for Erik ten Hag's side.

Hakim Ziyech broke the deadlock in stunning fashion eight minutes in, setting the tone for a thrilling tussle which could have swung in Valencia's favour had Parejo not skied his spot-kick.

Quincy Promes thumped in Ajax's second after Parejo's miss and the woodwork denied both Rodrigo and Ziyech before half-time.

Dusan Tadic – who teed up Ziyech's opener – passed up a golden chance to further Ajax's lead after the interval, but he atoned by setting up Donny van de Beek, who duly ensured last season's semi-finalists made it two wins from two.

Jasper Cillessen had to keep his former club at bay inside the opening 25 seconds, although Van de Beek's effort would have been disallowed for offside anyway.

Cillessen, though, was left flapping at thin air as Ziyech sensationally picked out the top-left corner with a pinpoint strike.

Edson Alvarez's lunge on Goncalo Guedes gifted Valencia a reprieve, only for Parejo to lash the resulting penalty high over the bar after 25 minutes.

Valencia were made to pay nine minutes later – Promes slamming home from Van de Beek's lay off.

Rodrigo looked sure to haul one back but his flick was kept out by a combination of the upright and Andre Onana, before Ziyech clattered another wonderful effort off the bar at the other end.

Onana twice came to Ajax's rescue after the restart, tipping Rodrigo's nudge onto the post moments after getting to Ferran Torres' shot.

Tadic should have compounded Valencia's frustrations soon after but instead side-footed wide from close range, while Promes also thrashed over.

But those misses mattered little when, at the culmination of a slick move, Tadic found Van de Beek, who wrapped up the points with a typically composed finish.
 

What does it mean? Ajax 2.0 a force to be reckoned with

Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt may no longer be in Ajax's ranks, but Ten Hag's side have started their Group H campaign in the style you would expect from a team which conquered Real Madrid and Juventus en route to last season's semi-finals. 

Ajax, who have now won five successive away Champions League matches, seem to have grown in stature despite the loss of their two young stars and with the attacking talents they possess, Ten Hag's project has a real sense of longevity about it.

Ziyech makes his mark... again

With all the talent available to Ten Hag, it is easy to forget just how good Ziyech was in Ajax's run to the semis, scoring five goals and proving to be one of the best playmakers in the competition.

Though while De Jong and De Ligt moved on, Ziyech stayed despite reported interest from some of Europe's elite clubs, rather surprisingly signing a contract extension in August. His quality – as evidenced by his sublime opener and the later shot which rattled the woodwork – is in no doubt, though, and it surely cannot be long until the big boys come calling.

Parejo loses his cool

Penalty misses from Parejo do not come along often, but his effort in the first half may be one of the worst attempts Valencia's captain has ever had from 12 yards.

The Spain international has scored three spot-kicks already this term, but – after a slightly longer wait while VAR confirmed the referee's decision – he certainly lost his composure this time around.

What's next?

Valencia are back at the Mestalla on Saturday, taking on Deportivo Alaves in LaLiga, while their next group game comes against Lille on October 23. ADO Den Haag are Ajax's Eredivisie opponents on Sunday, with a home clash against Chelsea their next continental fixture.

Manchester City again have a headline act in FIFA 20's FUT Team of the Week, with Riyad Mahrez earning himself a spot.

Algeria international Mahrez had a stuttering first season at the Etihad Stadium, but in recent weeks he has found some consistency and played a vital role in Saturday's 3-1 win over Everton, scoring a fine free-kick and generally running the defence ragged.

It meant he took a top rating in the FIFA Ultimate Team, a week after City team-mate Kevin De Bruyne achieved the same feat.

The only other Premier League player in the starting XI is Leicester City's Wilfred Ndidi - the young midfielder putting in a masterclass as Newcastle United were swept aside 5-0 on Sunday.

Bayer Leverkusen's Kai Havertz and Duvan Zapata of Atalanta lead the attack after both got a goal and an assist at the weekend.

Below, we have the full squad of in-form cards now up for grabs.

FUT Team of the Week

GK: Thomas Strakosha (Lazio) - 84

CB: German Pezzella (Fiorentina) - 82

CB: Daley Blind (Ajax) - 85

CB: Salif Sane (Schalke) - 83

RW: Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City) - 86

CM: Aleksandr Golovin (Monaco) - 82

CDM: Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City) - 84

LW: Mikel Oyarzabal (Real Sociedad) - 84

CAM: Santi Cazorla (Villarreal) - 84

ST: Duvan Zapata (Atalanta) - 84

CAM: Kai Havertz (Bayer Leverkusen) - 86

SUBSTITUTES

GK: Alban Lafont (Nantes) - 82

RWB: Matt Doherty (Wolves) - 82

CM: Grzegorz Krychowiak (Lokomotiv Moscow) - 82

CM: Vladimir Darida (Hertha Berlin) - 81

LW: Alexandru Mitrita (New York City) - 81

ST: Franco Jara (Pachuca) - 81

ST: Islam Slimani (Monaco) - 80

RESERVES

CB: Georg Margreitter (Nurnberg) - 79

CAM: Yeison Guzman (Envigado) - 76

LM: Kenta Nishizawa (Shimizu S-Pulse) - 73

ST: Ollie Watkins (Brentford) - 80

RW: Vladimir Rodic (Hammarby) - 76

Champions League holders Liverpool face Salzburg for the first time in their history on Wednesday as Jurgen Klopp aims to extend his unbeaten record at Anfield.

The Reds lost 2-0 to Napoli in their opening group fixture, increasing the importance of a result against a Salzburg side that thrashed Genk 6-2.

Exciting teenager Erling Haaland – son of former Premier League defender Alf-Inge Haaland – scored a first-half hat-trick in that match and should be ready for the trip to Merseyside after battling illness.

Barcelona, meanwhile, could have the fit-again Lionel Messi available for their date with Inter, a chance for the star forward to break his duck against the Serie A side.

Elsewhere, Frank Lampard heads to France in search of his maiden Champions League win in charge of Chelsea, while last season's semi-finalists Ajax visit Valencia.

Here is the pick of the key Opta facts for Wednesday's eight matches.

 

Genk v Napoli

6 - Napoli are without a win in their past six away games in the Champions League group stage (W0 D2 L4), last prevailing on the road with a 2-1 defeat of Benfica in December 2016.

13 - Genk have won none of their 13 Champions League matches (W0 D7 L6). Only Irish side Shamrock Rovers and Maltese outfit Floriana have played more games without winning (14 each) in the competition's history.

 

Liverpool v Salzburg

19 - Reds boss Klopp remains unbeaten after 19 matches at Anfield as Liverpool manager (W15 D4 L0). His streak is 10 games shy of Bob Paisley's club record.

2 - Salzburg striker Haaland will attempt to become the second player to score more than once in each of his first two Champions League appearances, Diego Simeone having done so for Atletico Madrid in September 1996.

 

Slavia Prague v Borussia Dortmund

13 - Czech champions Slavia handed out 13 Champions League debuts in their Group F opener, a 1-1 draw at Inter. The only player to feature who had previously appeared in the competition was Nicolae Stanciu.

68 - Dortmund have scored with just two of their past 68 attempts at goal in the Champions League and have been held goalless in five of their six most recent outings.

 

Barcelona v Inter

3 - Barca captain Messi has been directly involved in 15 goals in his past 17 games against Italian teams (12 goals, three assists), but has failed to score in any of his three Champions League meetings with Inter.

2003 - Inter boss Antonio Conte was an unused substitute for Juventus the last time an Italian coach won a Champions League match at Camp Nou, a quarter-final clash in 2003. Marcello Lippi was in charge of the visitors.

 

RB Leipzig v Lyon

5 - Each of Timo Werner's five Champions League goals have been scored away from home. No player has hit more on the road without scoring in their own stadium.

18 - Lyon striker Moussa Dembele is one game away from equalling former AEK Athens midfielder Vassilios Tsiartas' unwanted record for most Champions League appearances without winning, which stands at 18 (set between 1994 and 2003).

 

Zenit v Benfica

9 - Artem Dzyuba has been involved in nine goals in nine Champions League matches for Zenit, scoring six times and registering three assists, including one for Sardar Azmoun in his side's 1-1 draw against Lyon.

10 - Since the start of the 2017-18 season, Benfica have lost more Champions League group stage games (10) than any other team.

 

Lille v Chelsea

8 - Ligue 1 side Lille are winless in eight Champions League home matches since a 3-1 victory over AEK in October 2006, having gone undefeated in their first eight at home.

2 - Frank Lampard is in danger of becoming the second Englishman to lose his first two matches as a manager in the Champions League, after Ray Harford with Blackburn Rovers in September 1995.

 

Valencia v Ajax

2 - Valencia, 1-0 winners at Chelsea in their Group H opener, are looking to start a Champions League campaign with two consecutive victories for the first time since 2006-07, when Quique Sanchez Flores was in charge.

41 - Ajax captain Dusan Tadic has created 41 chances in the Champions League since the start of last season, more than any other player in the same period.

Another day, another Paul Pogba rumour.

Pogba continues to dominate headlines, even with the transfer window closed.

Having been tipped to leave Manchester United previously, a return to Turin could be on the horizon.

 

TOP STORY – POGBA KEEN ON JUVE COMEBACK

Manchester United star Paul Pogba is still open to returning to Serie A champions Juventus, says Calciomercato.

Pogba is reportedly eyeing a United exit, three years after his £89.3million (€105m) arrival from the Bianconeri.

The France midfielder was heavily linked to LaLiga giants Real Madrid and Juve before the transfer window closed in September and the speculation will not subside.

 

ROUND-UP

Massimiliano Allegri is learning English as he targets the Manchester United job, says The Guardian. Allegri is without a club since leaving Juventus in the off-season and the Italian is keen on a move to Old Trafford should Ole Gunnar Solskjaer leave.

- According to the Daily Star, United are lining up a £90million double transfer in January. With Solskjaer keen for reinforcements, the Red Devils are reportedly lining up Lyon forward Moussa Dembele and Newcastle United midfielder Sean Longstaff.

- Having identified Ajax's Donny van de Beek as a midfield option before the window shut, Real Madrid are keen to watch more talent from the Dutch champions. AS reports that Madrid will look at Ajax in their next Champions League fixture against Valencia on Wednesday, with Hakim Ziyech, David Neres, Lisandro Martinez and Edson Alvarez all on the list.

- According to the Daily Mail, Arsenal are hoping to offload out-of-favour playmaker Mesut Ozil in January. The German has previously been linked to MLS outfit DC United, who are set to lose Wayne Rooney to Derby County.

- Former Italy and Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Thiago Motta could be in line to become the next Genoa head coach, claims Il Secolo XIX. Aurelio Andreazzoli is reportedly set to be sacked if Genoa lose to AC Milan on Saturday and Motta, who also played for Serie A side Inter, could be his replacement.

- According to Calciomercato and La Gazzetta dello Sport journalist Nicolo Schira, Juventus great Claudio Marchisio is set to announce his retirement. The 33-year-old – a free agent since leaving Zenit in July – has been linked to Rangers, Brescia and Flamengo.

Ajax head coach Erik ten Hag says his side needs to "play smarter" despite a resounding 3-0 win over Lille to open their 2019-20 Champions League campaign.

Last season's beaten semi-finalists were largely in dominant mood against their Ligue 1 opponents. Quincy Promes headed them into an 18th-minute lead before Edson Alvarez scored his first goal for the club five minutes after the interval.

Nicolas Tagliafico added a third with a thumping header after 62 minutes but Lille did carve out a number of golden opportunities over the course of the 90 minutes.

While Ten Hag was delighted to start their Group H campaign with a win, he did urge his side to sharpen up.

"My players have an enormous urge to push forward," he told Ziggo. "We have many players who want to get to the goal quickly but there are times when you have to brake and keep the ball longer. 

"Otherwise, you make the opponent stronger. From an organisational point of view, we have to play smarter.

"We sometimes want way too much and that made it an open game. We talked about it in advance because Lille are a powerful side. We want to give a final pass too quickly instead of holding the ball."

Lille coach Christophe Galtier, meanwhile, was left to rue his side's missed chances and pointed to Ajax's ruthlessness as the only difference between the two teams.

"We played as we wanted to play," he said.

"We wanted to be dangerous. The difference came in being clinical in the penalty areas. They were, and we weren't. The man of the match was the Ajax goalkeeper, which shows we created chances.

"But at this level, you have to put them away and punish your opponents. We didn't do that."

Last season's beaten semi-finalists Ajax opened their 2019-20 Champions League campaign with a convincing 3-0 win over Lille on Tuesday.

Erik ten Hag's side – who were denied a place in the final by Tottenham last term – were in dominant mood against their Ligue 1 opponents and looked well placed to claim all three points from the outset in Amsterdam.

Quincy Promes headed them into an 18th-minute lead before Edson Alvarez scored his first goal for the club five minutes after the interval.

Nicolas Tagliafico added a third with a thumping header after 62 minutes as the Dutch champions stormed into pole position in Group H.

Ajax started on the front foot and went agonisingly close to taking the lead in the 14th minute, Hakim Ziyech's thunderous half-volley crashing back off Mike Maignan's right-hand post.

They did not have to wait long to go ahead, though, as an unmarked Promes met Tagliafico's deep cross with a powerful header just four minutes later.

Lille responded well to that early setback and should have pulled level moments before the interval. Jonathan Bamba picked out Jonathan Ikone after a surging run down the left but Andre Onana got down well to keep out his low effort, with Victor Osimhen hooking the rebound over the crossbar.

The hosts looked sharp at the start of the second period, Ziyech testing Maignan low down to his left with a fierce drive.

Their positive approach was rewarded in the 50th minute when David Neres slid Alvarez in down the right after a flowing team move and the Mexican superbly lifted a shot across the Lille goalkeeper from a tight angle to double their advantage. 

Tagliafico ensured there would be no dramatic comeback from Lille when he made it 3-0 shortly after the hour mark, superbly heading home Ziyech's outswinging corner.

Yusuf Yazici crashed an effort against the post late on as Lille tried in vain to restore some respectability to a scoreline that did not flatter the hosts.
 

What does it mean? Ajax move on from high-profile departures

They might have lost talented youngsters Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong during the close season, but Ajax look well poised to enjoy another fruitful Champions League campaign. In Ziyech and Neres, they have two of the most exciting wide men in the tournament, who will surely give better defences that Lille's trouble this season.

Ziyech continues to sparkle

Only Lionel Messi created more 'big chances' than Ziyech in last season's competition and on this evidence, it is not hard to see why. The Moroccan was outstanding and can consider himself lucky not to have got on the scoresheet.

Osimhen's misses haunt Lille

The French side were comfortably the inferior team but they might permit themselves to wonder what might have been had the Nigeria international taken either of the chances that fell to him. As it was, he squandered both and was duly punished by a ruthless Ajax side.

What's next?

Ajax return to Eredivisie action on Sunday against rivals PSV with their next Champions League match against Valencia on October 2. Lille, meanwhile, face Rennes in Ligue 1 at the weekend before hosting Chelsea in matchweek two.

Ajax will miss Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt but have not been deflated by the dual departures, according to Dusan Tadic.

The Dutch champions parted with their two brightest stars during the close season as midfielder De Jong moved to Barcelona and defender De Ligt joined Juventus.

The pair had been instrumental in Ajax's stunning run to the Champions League semi-finals, starting 17 games apiece.

Erik ten Hag's men return to European action against Ligue 1 side Lille on Tuesday and winger Tadic believes success on the continent remains within reach.

"We were not sad De Jong and De Ligt left," Tadic told the Telegraph.

"We will miss them, but it's the next step for them and Ajax likes to support their players who feel the time is right to move on.

"They have both gone to big clubs, nobody was surprised. The nice thing is, there were a lot of other players who could have left and decided to stay because they are having their best days here. This is important.

"It will be harder without those two, but not impossible. We still have a good team, we can still win trophies, we can still do well in Europe and there are more young players coming through who will make their impact.

"Ajax have sold big players before, that is the way of life for us, so it is up to the young players to stand up and take more responsibility.

"They will have a chance, there are so many of them coming through."

Tadic was another hugely important figure in Ajax's superb 2018-19 season, the Serbia international scoring 38 goals.

His performances justified the Eredivisie club's decision to break with their tradition of focusing investment on young prospects and Tadic's own choice to leave the Premier League.

"I was 29 when I left for Ajax and I can confidently say I made the right decision," he said.

"It is easier to show my true self for Ajax, it was harder at Southampton. I stopped enjoying it. I wanted to come to Ajax and I have enjoyed every minute."

Lionel Messi has his sights on a record set by Real Madrid great Raul when Barcelona face Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday, as the Champions League proper gets started for the 2019-20 season.

Barca's talisman is back in their squad for the trip to Germany after missing the start of the campaign with a calf injury and, while he is unlikely to start, few would bet against him having a decisive impact if he does make an appearance.

Reigning champions Liverpool begin their title defence at Napoli in what will surely prove to be a tricky test, although Sadio Mane will be aiming to equal a record set by Didier Drogba.

There will also be Champions League bows in the dugout for Frank Lampard and Sylvinho.

Below, we examine the key data for Tuesday's encounters...

Salzburg v Genk

0 - Salzburg have not lost any of their last 18 home matches in European competition (W14 D4 – including qualifiers), with their most recent defeat at home coming in October 2016 against Nice in the Europa League.

1 - Genk forward Mbwana Samatta scored nine goals in 12 appearances in European competition last season and he also finished with 23 goals in the Belgian top flight in 2018-19. Should he play in this match, he will be the first Tanzanian player to make an appearance in the Champions League.

 

Napoli v Liverpool

5 - Napoli have won just one of their past six European meetings with English clubs, losing the other five in this run and failing to score in the most recent three. That one victory was against Liverpool last season, though.

15 - Liverpool forward Sadio Mane has scored 14 goals in 24 Champions League appearances. Should he score in his next outing, he will equal Didier Drogba's record of needing just 25 appearances to score his first 15 goals in the competition, a record for any African player.

 

Inter v Slavia Prague

20 - Inter will be making their 20th appearance in the Champions League/European Cup – only Juventus (34) and AC Milan (28) have had more among Italian sides (including 2019-20).

24 - Inter forward Alexis Sanchez has been involved in 24 goals (12 goals, 12 assists) in his 52 Champions League appearances, but none of these involvements came in six games in the competition for Manchester United, the club he left on loan last month.

 

Borussia Dortmund v Barcelona

33 - Lionel Messi has scored against 32 of the 37 different opponents he has faced in the Champions League. Should he score against Dortmund, the Barcelona star will equal the competition's record for different teams scored against, set by Raul (33 clubs).

2 - Borussia Dortmund have won just two of their past eight Champions League home matches (D2 L4), losing their most recent match 1-0 against Tottenham in the last 16 in 2018-19.

 

Lyon v Zenit

1 - Lyon boss Sylvinho will manage in the Champions League for the first time, also becoming the first non-Frenchman to take charge of the club in Europe's elite competition. The Brazilian made 32 Champions League appearances as a player for Barcelona, Celta Vigo and Arsenal, scoring three goals.

58 - Zenit captain Branislav Ivanovic could make his first Champions League appearance since March 2016 (for Chelsea) in this match. He has made 58 appearances in the competition; only Dejan Stankovic (87) and Predrag Djordjevic (62) have made more among Serbian players.

 

Benfica v RB Leipzig

10 - Benfica are Portugal's sole representative in the 2019-20 Champions League, making it the first time in a decade that there is only one Portuguese club in the competition.

3 - Timo Werner scored three goals from just seven shots on target in the Champions League back in 2017-18, more than any other RB Leipzig player. He went on to net seven times in European competition that term, the highest total by an RB Leipzig player in a single season.

 

Ajax v Lille

6 - Ajax won six games in the 2018-19 Champions League, as many as they did in their previous four participations in the competition.

11 - Including qualifiers, Lille have not won any of their past 11 European matches in all competitions (D6 L5) and scored only five goals in these games.

 

Chelsea v Valencia

102 - Frank Lampard will take charge of a Champions League game for the first time in his managerial career. As a Chelsea player, he made 102 appearances in the competition and is one of only 22 players to have played 100 games or more in the tournament with the same club.

2 - Valencia have reached the Champions League in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2012-13 (three in a row), which was also the last time they made it to the knockout stages of the competition, before being beaten by Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16.

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