Though they're away, Barcelona is Barcelona. They're going to be favored in pretty much every situation and it's no different for Tuesday's Champions League clash. Sportsbooks have the Catalans at -175 to -200, with Ajax available at +550 to +600 on their own pitch. That's pretty good value on a side that's gone unbeaten at home in the competition so far.
It's been a great few weeks for Ajax, as they've won three straight matches across all competitions.
It started with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Celtic in the Champions League – Lasse Schone was the hero – and the Dutchmen then earned successive 3-0 wins over NEC Nijmegen and SC Heracles Almelo.
Against Heracles, Danny Hoesen got Ajax off to an outstanding start with a goal in the second minute. Viktor Fischer and Davy Klaassen added goals in the second half to cap off a dominant all-around performance.
Those well-earned three points mean Ajax is in second place in the Eredivisie, two points behind Vitesse in the standings. The parity in the league has been crazy this season, with only seven points separating first through eighth place.
In Europe though, it's going to take something special for Ajax to make it out of the group. They need a hiccup from AC Milan at some point, and it sure wouldn't hurt to get at least a point out of this visit of the Spaniards.
The Catalans, amazingly enough, have still yet to lose once in any competition this season. They're unbeaten in La Liga (13 wins, one draw) and have a three-point lead on Atletico Madrid and a six-point cushion on Real Madrid.
Coming into Tuesday, Barcelona has won six straight matches, which includes a 2-1 win over Los Galacitcos in the Clasico and a 3-1 win over AC Milan in the Champions League.
We last saw the Catalans play on Saturday and they were dominant as usual, cruising to a 4-0 win at the expense of Granada. Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, Alexis Sanchez and Pedro all got on the score-sheet, with Iniesta and Fabregas scoring from the penalty spot.
As you can see, Gerard Martino's boys are hanging in there just fine without star Messi, who's still weeks away from returning from a serious hamstring injury.
It's hard to replace someone who's already scored six goals in three Champions League appearances, but if any team can do that it's Barcelona. We'll find out soon enough how they cope in a true European test.
Champions League Pick
When these European powers met up at the Nou Camp in the middle of September, Messi scored a hat-trick, with Gerard Pique adding the other goal.
Clearly things will be different this time around, as now Ajax plays the role of home team and faces a Barcelona outfit without their maestro running the show up front.
Still, the Catalans managed just fine against Granada and that's not the only time they've stepped up without Messi on the pitch. We look for Xavi to set the tone as he normally does and Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, Alexis Sanchez, Pedro and of course Neymar to pour on the pressure in attack.
It won't be easy, but we still add Barcelona to our soccer picks as we expect them to head back home with the three points.
Pick: Ajax 1 Barcelona 2