Champions League Group H: Chelsea youngsters up against Ajax challenge, Valencia faces Lille

The headline game of Group H in gameweek three will be the clash between last year's semifinalist Ajax and Frank Lampard's Chelsea.

The Chelsea youngsters have flourished thus far under the guidance of Frank Lampard.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Chelsea’s young guns will test their run of form at one of the homes of youth development on Wednesday as they attempt to stop an Ajax team on course to replicate last season’s thrilling Champions League run.

The Blues are on a five-match winning streak in all-competitions after beating Newcastle United 1-0 at the weekend but come up against the Group H leader in Amsterdam. Ajax is averaging over three goals a game at home and abroad, and is hungry for European success after semifinal heartache last season.

Fikayo Tomori, Ross Barkley, Mason Mount, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Tammy Abraham all started Saturday’s win at Stamford Bridge, the first time since 2013 five English players made the London club’s starting XI.

The side is second on three points in Group H after a wobbly opening two games in the Champions League, with a pair of matches coming up against on-fire Ajax that could decide its European destiny.

Abraham has stolen the headlines with eight goals in nine league appearances and the opener in Chelsea’s 2-1 win in Lille

It was also just the second time this season that Chelsea kept a clean sheet, and it did it without the injured Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger, with 21-year-old Tomori proving an increasingly solid presence at the back.

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Rudiger and Christensen are two of a string of Chelsea absentees which includes midfield lynchpin N’Golo Kante and another academy product Ruben Loftus-Cheek, with Barkley and Cesar Azpilicueta also doubts for Ajax.

Ajax’s remarkable form has led to rumours that coach Erik ten Hag is a potential Bayern Munich target, rumours that the 49-year-old refused to play down on Monday as Nico Kovac comes under fire in Germany.

Despite losing midfield dynamo Frenkie De Jong to Barcelona and defensive rock Matthijs de Ligt to Juventus, it is top of the Eredivisie and unbeaten after scoring 31 times in its opening 10 games, three points ahead of PSV Eindhoven and Vitesse Arnhem.

In fact Erik ten Hag’s side has hardly felt the effects of its departures, as the rising stars of Dutch football struggle to impose themselves in new countries.

It is also top of Group H after beating both Lille and Valencia 3-0 with the same brand of thrilling football that captured Europe’s imaginations last season.

Forward Klaas-Jan Huntelaar is on fire, with five league goals in as many appearances, as it hunts its first European trophy in 25 years.

- LILLE SEARCHES FIRST WIN OF CAMPAIGN -

Christophe Galtier's Lille, with just a win in its last seven matches, welcomes La Liga side Valencia at the Stade Pierre Mauroy on Wednesday.

Dani Parejo top scores for Valencia this season with six goals. Photo: Getty Images

Lille lost its opening two matches of the Champions League and sits last on the points table while Valencia has a win and a loss to its record. Albert Celades' side is placed second in the Group and is only ahead of Chelsea on goal difference.

The French side has been vulnerable in defence with just two clean sheets so far this season. Valencia midfielder Dani Parejo has had a stellar start at Valencia with six goals, leading the charts for the side. Young Uruguayan forward Maxi Gomez is also among the goalscoring charts with four strikes after his move from Celta in the summer.

With the loss of Nicolas Pepe to Arsenal, Lille has forged a forward line in Jonathan Bamba, Jonathan Ikone and Victor Osimhen.

Osimhen will provide the goal threat to Lille having notched up seven goals in the new season.

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