The Blues have been handed the early kick-off slot for our first competitive meeting with the current Dutch champions and last season’s Champions League semi-finalists. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton analyse our Amsterdam appointment…

In popular mythology Ajax was the grandson of Zeus, the cousin of Achilles, and ‘Stronger than dirt’ (though that was a 1960s scouring powder slogan). Can Chelsea clean up against the namesakes from the Netherlands?

Erik ten Hag’s Eredivise champions present a severe test to the Blues’ record run of eight European away matches unbeaten. The Londoners have won four of the past five on the road in the Champions League, though, scoring 12 and conceding five, and have tasted defeat only once in 17 UEFA games – the anomaly was this season, at home to Valencia.

Chelsea’s outstanding result in the second match at Lille set the club back on course for the knockout phase of this competition. Any points from tonight’s early start against the Group H leaders would even open a channel to finishing top in December.

The beating of Newcastle gave us a Chelsea’s fifth successive victory for the first time under Frank Lampard. While many of our fine overseas coaches have equalled or surpassed that tally, the last Englishman to match it was Glenn Hoddle way back in February/March 1994. For six on the spin you have to go back to November/December 1990 under Bobby Campbell.

We’ve (both) won it all

‘Ajax are like us,’ Tammy Abraham noted this week. ‘They have a lot of young players who like to keep the ball and play good football.’ The parallels between the two big city clubs also extend beyond their present characteristics to success in Europe and in youth development stretching back over several decades.

Chelsea and Ajax are one of five members of a select club reserved for those who have lifted each of UEFA’s major trophies in their various guises: the Champions League/European Cup, Europa League/UEFA Cup, and Cup Winners’ Cup. The others are Bayern Munich, Juventus and Manchester United.

The Netherlanders’ name is one of the last to be ticked off from the list of fellow European Cup-winning clubs to face the Blues in a competitive setting. After tonight Hamburg and Red Star Belgrade will be the only ones remaining (though we faced a Ville de Belgrade side dominated by Red Star players in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1959).

Carabao Cup catch-up

Manchester United, who visit the Bridge next Wednesday in round four of the Carabao Cup, are on Europa League duty at Partizan Belgrade tomorrow, a 5.55pm kick-off.

Like Chelsea, Ajax have two other fixtures to play – Feyenoord at home and Zwolle away in the league – before we meet again on Guy Fawkes’ Night at the Bridge.

Plenty of friendlies

There have been no previous competitive meetings between Ajax and Chelsea, but a lot of non-competitive ones. Young Jimmy Greaves was on target twice as the Blues won 4-2 in Amsterdam 62 years ago. Just seven days later his undeniable precocity earned a goalscoring first team debut at White Hart Lane against Tottenham.

We also met twice in the pre-season Makita Tournament, including the 1996 final at Nottingham Forest’s ground. The only defeat among the six practice matches came in summer 2010, when a largely inexperienced Blues side lost out to a home team featuring later-to-be-Spurs trio Toby Alderweireld, Christian Eriksen and Jan Verthonghen.

One person who may be watching today’s game from the comfort of his armchair in the Crewe area with a rueful smile is Frank Blunstone. Chelsea’s former wing maestro broke his leg just past the hour mark of the Blues’ friendly win at the De Meer stadium in August 1957. It was his first match since breaking the same leg in a cup-tie against Tottenham on 26 January amid ‘unnecessarily severe’ tackling, and he would not return again for 10 months. Blunstone took revenge of sorts on his return to Amsterdam in August 1959, opening the scoring in a 3-2 win.

Youth in common

UEFA Youth League fixtures mirror those of the senior team, meaning two of the best academies will also come head-to-head in ‘the Venice of the north’ this afternoon.

This was a regular occurrence in the past, especially as in the mid-Fifties the Chelsea Juniors took part in ADO Den Haag’s International Youth Tournament. This was an under-19s competition the Blues’ youths won several times, including three seasons running in the mid-1950s. A replica of the 1956 winners’ trophy is on display in the West Stand at Stamford Bridge.

In summer 1957, it was Jimmy Greaves who starred in the Juniors’ success, netting from 12 yards in an early penalty shoot-out after a 1-1 draw with Belgian side Prato Eisden.

The modern heirs to Greaves and co. are continuing that exemplary work. Last weekend the Academy’s under-16s beat their Manchester City rivals 1-0 to win the Premier League International Tournament, seeing off South American opposition in Palmeiras and Internacional en route.

Remarkably, Chelsea are currently the Premier League International Tournament’s defending champions at all age levels from under-13 to under-16. Congratulations to everyone who works so hard at Cobham.

Ajax’s big holes to fill

For their part Ajax have been renowned since the 1970s for the quality of their academy products, though yet again this summer the flower of their youth left for big money after starring in last season’s Champions League.The gaps left by the hugely impressive Matthijs de Ligt (now at Juventus) and Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona) were filled by the arrival of two incoming 21-year-old defensive midfielders, Edson Alvarez and Lisandro Martinez, allowing the latest homegrown star, Donny van de Beek, to express himself further forward.

Chelsea will also be keen to disrupt the fruitful supply lines from Quincy Promes and Hakim Ziyech to top scorer Dusan Tadic, formerly of Southampton. Ziyech was arguable the Amsterdam side’s key player as they progressed to the quarter-finals in the last campaign.

A stadium of happy memories

Ajax’s home since 1996 was renamed the Johan Cruyff Arena in 2017. As the Amsterdam ArenA four years earlier, it was the scene against Benfica of Fernando Torres’s opener, Branislav Ivanovic’s late winner and Chelsea’s first glorious Europa League victory, the trophy that completed the full set of UEFA titles for the Blues.

Azpilicueta milestone

Cesar Azpilicueta is set to represent Chelsea for the 350th time this evening – the fifth overseas player to do so. The defender is so dependable he has played 349 of the last possible 415 matches (that’s 84 per cent). Incredibly, since he arrived at Stamford Bridge in 2012 he has missed just two games as a result of injury or illness, the last being in 2014/15.

His coach will approve: Frank Lampard set a new record with 164 consecutive Premier League appearances between 2001 and 2005.

Third kit makes its bow

This evening will also see the debut for the men’s team of Chelsea’s third kit, which is primarily black but with flashes of bright orange. Ajax fans may imagine it is a homage to great Netherlands teams of the past – the Oranje – but Nike designed it more as a new take on an away shirt worn during a celebrated era for Chelsea in the mid-1990s in which, it has to be said, the mighty Dutchman Ruud Gullit looked effortlessly stylish.

As well as the nostalgic use of orange, the new kit boasts numerous other nods to ‘90s football, with a jacquard knit rising from the fabric of the shirt, an old-school style collar and a retro Nike ‘Futura’ logo.

Click to purchase the kit from our online store

Champions League results and fixtures – Matchday three

TuesdayAtletico Madrid 1 Bayer Leverkusen 0Shakhtar Donetsk 2 Dinamo Zagreb 2Bruges 0 PSG 5Galatasaray 0 Real Madrid 1Juventus 2 Lokomotiv Moscow 1Manchester City 5 Atalanta 1Olympiacos 2 Bayern Munich 3Tottenham 5 Red Star Belgrade 0

WednesdayAjax v Chelsea 5.55pmRB Leipzig v Zenit 5.55pmBenfica v Lyon 8pmGenk v Liverpool 8pmInter Milan v Borussia Dortmund 8pmLille v Valencia 8pmRB Salzburg v Napoli 8pmSlavia Prague v Barcelona 8pm