Corrections and clarifications. That’s a 1985 VW Golf, not a Polo. Thanks to Miika Vaso and Robert McAllister for pointing that out. Meanwhile our old friend Simon McMahon is lost in a misty water-coloured nostalgic reverie: “Austin Maxi was some player, eh? I often wonder what that Chelsea team could have gone on to achieve if they’d him kept him for another season or two to play alongside a young Ford Mondeo. Or if they’d signed Hertz Van Rental from Ajax.”
A full and Frank conversation. “Against real, high-end opposition, bravery comes into play. You have to receive the ball in tight areas, the press is good, the quality is good. We have to perform how we did out there. We have to reach that level, they’re very strong. Even off the back of a couple of wins in this competition, there’s still work to be done. So it’ll be a tough match for us. Ajax have so much talent in their team. They’re a very attacking team, their selection shows that. We have to be careful.”
Presumably Ajax will be kitted out in their storied red and white. If not, blame modern kit contracts, not us. Here’s Johan Cruyff wearing the gorgeous shirt, riding a sliding tackle by Den Haag defender Aad Mansveld in 1972. He’s about to make off with that Telstar, we’ll be bound.
Chelsea will play in their famous blue shirts. Their current patterned tops have a vague retro whiff about them. Hey, any old excuse to whack up a picture of Stamford Bridge back in the day, pitchside car park and all. Here’s everyone celebrating promotion from the old Second Division in 1989. Left to right: Ford Escort, Austin Maxi, Graham Roberts, Kevin Wilson, Peter Nicholas, Micky Hazard, Volkswagen Polo.
Two players will miss the next match if they’re booked: Ajax goalkeeper-captain Andre Onana and midfielder Lisandro Martinez. Chelsea can pick up as many yellow cards as they fancy.
Marcos Alonso returns to the Chelsea starting XI. He replaces Emerson, the only change made to the side named at Watford three days ago. N’Golo Kante is back from injury and on the bench. Neither Ross Barkley nor Olivier Giroud are in the squad, respectively unfit and unloved.
Ajax make two changes to the team sent out in Amsterdam two weeks ago. Noussair Mazraoui replaces Sergino Dest at right back, while David Neres takes Hakim Ziyech’s place in the front three; Ziyech shifts back to replace Edson Alvarez in midfield.
Chelsea: Arrizabalaga, Azpilicueta, Zouma, Tomori, Alonso, Jorginho, Kovacic, Willian, Mount, Pulisic, Abraham.
Subs: Christensen, Kante, Caballero, Hudson-Odoi, Batshuayi, James, Gilmour.
Ajax: Onana, Mazraoui, Veltman, Blind, Tagliafico, van de Beek, Ziyech, Martinez, Neres, Tadic, Promes.
Subs: Bruno Varela, Schuurs, Alvarez, Huntelaar, De Jong, Marin, Dest.
Referee: Gianluca Rocchi (Italy).
Welcome to the Guardian’s coverage of the game that could decide who wins Group H. Not that topping the group makes much difference in the long run. Not if you’re any good. Which both of these sides unquestionably are.
Chelsea, the reigning Europa League champions, are in fine fettle right now. They’ve won their last seven Premier League and Champions League matches, playing some delightfully open football along the way. At the weekend, they could have won by ten goals at Watford. They also very nearly drew the match 2-2. They’re that sort of team now. Kevin Keegan would approve.
Ajax, the reigning Dutch champions who fell two seconds short from last season’s Champions League final, are in rude health too. Erik ten Hag’s team are already well clear at the top of the Eredivise, and so far this season they’ve put four or more goals past Emmen, VVV-Venlo, Sparta Rotterdam, Heerenveen, Fortuna Sittard, PEC Zwolle and arch-rivals Feyenoord.
Ajax’s only defeat in this campaign to date came against Chelsea in the Amsterdam Arena a fortnight ago. So they’ll be looking to avenge that, and take one giant step towards the Round of 16. But of course young Chelsea have the exact same agenda. So given both teams’ attacking nature, plus Chelsea’s slightly shaky defence, we could have a breezy high-scorer on our hands here. Then again, the match in Amsterdam ended 0-1, so no promises. But it’s on!
Kick off: 8pm GMT.