Last year Ajax was also one of our rivals in the group stage, but back then they had the amazing striker Luis Suárez. The Dutch team has four European Cups, the latest one earned in 1995.
Right now Ajax is trying to get back to the dominant status they held in the Eredivisie. They were the champions last year, but they had good competition in the Twente Schede. The Dutch league is very easy to win since PSV Eindhoven and Feyenoord are not the teams they were in the past. Despite this, Ajax had a rough time winning the title again--before this year, their last Eredivisie was the one they won back in 2004.
Ajax has not only lost Suárez; Martin Stekelenburg, starting goalkeeper for the Dutch National Team, has gone to AS Roma in a 6.3M € transfer (which is pretty cheap). I like Stekelenburg a lot and I think Ajax did not made a good move with this sale.
The team has not reinvested any of the money they got for Suárez and Stekelenburg (32M€), so they are not a high-quality team this year. They've also lost starting midfielder De Zeew. This last transfer has given 19-year-old Christian Erikssen the chance to be a starter on the team, and he is really developing into an interesting player. Another one of their key men is Siem De Jong, whose last season was noteworthy. However, he needs to step up his game a little bit more if he wants to become their undisputed star, and if Amsterdam wants to see their team in the playoffs again.
In the defensive line, Van der Wiel is a decent fullback, but they lost Urby Emmanuelson in last winter market when AC Milan signed him. They are really soft in the back given Madrid's offensive skills, so we should be able to score many goals against them.
The team lacks firepower upfront. El-Hamdaoui is not enough for European competitions. He might be adequate for the Eredivisie, but neither he nor Sulejmani are decent-level strikers. They should sign a striker with the money they earned last year. Maybe Ola Toivonen would agree to leave Eindhoven for Amsterdam--he is certainly a better striker than the other two I mentioned.
Their goal in this Champions League has to be beating Lyon for the second spot, but I think that's probably too ambitious for them. Third spot and a chance to play in the European League should be enough for them. I think they will compete against Zagreb better than against Lyon.
Real Madrid won 2-0 at the Bernabeu and 0-4 in Amsterdam Arena, so if they were not able to score a goal against us when they got Suárez, I don't think they will cause our defense any trouble this year. We could even use one of these games to give players like Kaká, Callejón, Varane and maybe Sahin (if he is healthy then) to get more involved in our team. Xabi Alonso could use the Bernabeu game on September 27th to get some rest. He is going to need it this year if we are going to win it all.
So don't let the name fool you: they are a very weak team and it should be easy to get a comfortable win in both games. I expect our first Champions League game in Zagreb to be harder than either of the two games against the Dutch.