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Ajax is preparing to play in the playoff phase of the UEFA Europa League (UEL) for the tenth time – a record number in the competition – and will receive a visit from Union Berlin, who are having their first taste of a knockout phase of European football. Things have not been easy for the Amsterdam club since the departure of Erik ten Hag, with Alfred Schreuder posting a seven-game winless run in the league before his eventual sacking last month.

Since then, John Heitinga has taken the helm and with flying colors, winning all four of his games in charge to remain very close to the top in the Eredivisie. Attention now turns to the continental stage after their third place finish in the Champions League group stage gave them a spot in the UEL playoffs, with Ajax looking to continue their solid all-time record against German clubs while trying to continue in the competition (G23, E7, P8).

In stark contrast, Union are looking for their first positive result ever against a Dutch opponent after a pair of losses last season against Feyenoord. Those led by Urs Fischer seem headed for it after maintaining a perfect official record in 2023 (G6) with a 2-1 win against Leipzig last weekend, a victory that kept them just one point behind the league leaders. Bundesliga, Bayern Munich, as they look to clinch their first top division title.

Suffering is something Unión have known how to do since four of their last five victories came by a score of 2-1, while three of those victories saw them concede the first goal. A similar level of curious consistency was seen in their UEL group as their six matches ended either 1-0 for or against (W4, D2), showing the Iron Ones’ determination.

Players to watch: Mohammed Kudus contributed to six of Ajax’s 11 group stage goals (four goals, two assists) and hasn’t slowed his progress since, scoring in four of his last five appearances. Similarly, Union’s Robin Knoche contributed to three of their four group stage goals (two goals, one assist) and scored in two of their last three domestic victories.

Highlight: Ajax have advanced in ten of their last 12 series to two games in UEFA competition against German opposition.