Something to bookmark for later: Women’s Football Weekly returns, with a full review of the opening round of WSL fixtures and more.
Just three changes from the WSL win over Brighton for Arsenal, with both full-backs replaced – Noëlle Maritz replacing Laura Wienrother, Steph Catley in for Katie McCabe. Lina Hurtig, who signed this summer from Juventus, makes her first start in place of Caitlin Foord.
Unlike Arsenal’s multi-national lineup, Ajax’s squad is comprised only from Dutch players. Rising stars Victoria Pelova and Romée Leuchter can cause the hosts problems, while the captain, Sherida Spitse, is also the skipper for her national team.
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Zinsberger; Maritz, Williamson, Rafaelle, Catley; Wälti, Little (c); Mead, Miedema, Hurtig; Blackstenius.
Subs: Marckese, Wubben-Moy, Beattie, Nobbs, Maanum, McCabe, Foord, Wienroither, Agyemany, Earl, Reid.
Ajax (4-3-3): Kop; Van der Most, Kardinaal, Doorn, Verhoeve; Noordam, Spitse (c), Pelova; Grant, Leuchter, Weerden.
Subs: Bussman, Van der Wal, Munsterman, Tromp, Kruize, Keijzer, Hoekstra, Bakker, Van Gool, Sabajo.
After their routine opening WSL win over Brighton was made to look far less routine by Manchester City and Chelsea’s subsequent slip-ups, Arsenal have the chance to maintain their strong start to the season by claiming a place in the Champions League group stages.
Finishing second to Chelsea in the league last season means Jonas Eidevall’s side avoided the tricky round of mini-knockouts that put paid to Manchester City’s hopes. Instead, they begin in the final qualifying round, a two-legged playoff with the Dutch runners-up, Ajax, who overcame Eintracht Frankfurt to get here.
An emerging rather than established European force in the women’s game, Ajax’s deepest run in this tournament came in 2018-19, when they lost 13-0 on aggregate to Lyon in the last 16. Arsenal will be very warm favourites to progress but cannot afford to underestimate a side with plenty of young attacking talent.
With the North London derby on Saturday, a return leg in Amsterdam next week and new signings to bed in, Eidevall has a few tricky selection calls to make to keep his team fresh while avoiding a dreaded early European exit. Kick-off is at 7.30pm.