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Celtic look to bounce back from Aberdeen defeat

Ajax vs Celtic

Celtic face a difficult task to advance from Europa League Group A and their hopes could receive an early setback with defeat away to Ajax.

After being denied a place in the Champions League group stage with a 2-0 loss in Malmo having won the first leg of that play-off round tie 3-2 at home, the Scottish champions now find themselves pooled with Ajax, Fenerbahce and Molde.

The last-named Norwegian club are clearly the outsiders of the quartet, but Fenerbahce and Ajax will provide very stern opposition and it looks an uphill task for Celtic to qualify for the last 32.

They have recent experience of facing the Dutch outfit from two seasons ago in the Champions League group stage when each match ended in a home win, 2-1 to Celtic and 1-0 to Ajax.

Both teams exited the competition on that occasion although Ajax finished only one point behind runners-up AC Milan and five adrift of Barcelona, with the Hoops tailed off at the bottom of the table.

There had been little wrong with Celtic’s form this term until the disappointment in Malmo, but another blow has followed with Sunday’s 2-1 defeat to Aberdeen.

A Leigh Griffiths penalty looked to have put Ronny Deila’s side on the way to three points at Pittodrie, but they conceded from a spot-kick themselves converted by Adam Rooney and even though the Dons went down to 10 men they still grabbed a winner through Paul Quinn.

The Celtic camp were unhappy with some of the refereeing decisions, but nevertheless it was a less than ideal way to go into a big European game knowing they now have to play catch-up in the Premiership title race.

Ajax, meanwhile, have no such worries because they sit top of the Eredivisie table and a reaction was needed from Frank de Boer’s side after trailing in 17 points behind champions PSV Eindhoven last season.

Like Celtic, their Champions League ambitions were snuffed out early as they lost 5-4 on aggregate to Rapid Vienna, but then Ajax went on a run of six straight clean sheets before a 2-2 draw with Twente at the weekend.

In team news, Celtic are likely to elevate Nadir Ciftci, Efe Ambrose and James Forrest into the starting line-up, with Tyler Blackett expected to continue at centre-back.

Viktor Fischer, Kaya Sanogo and Ricardo van Rhijn are all a chance to start for Ajax following impressive performances off the bench against Twente.

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