Despite the pressure that comes with the race for the championship, Frank de Boer is enjoying himself. “It is maybe a bit less right now, but later when you put everything into perspective, these are really the best weeks”, said Ajax’s coach. “In sports, it’s all about the pressure and excitement, and that also gives energy. This is the best experience for any top athlete.”
Due to the draw against FC Utrecht, PSV has pulled even with Ajax. But the Ajacieds still have the advantage of its goal balance being six more than PSV’s. If the teams remain even at the end of the year, the goal balance will be the deciding factor.
Resting on their laurels is obviously not part of th plan, says De Boer. “It’s a reasonable gap, even if we win all remaining games by one goal, they need to win all of theirs by 3-0. But if they have an exceptional 5-0 game, for example, that would change everything.”
“We just need to make sure that we’re eager to score goals”, continued De Boer. “But the more important thing is winning. That’s the biggest goal. We always hope to win by many goals, be it the first or last game of the season. But now, this can make the difference. The players know that. If you’re 2-0 ahead and you get an opportunity, then you need to take it seriously.”
Should Ajax be sitting pretty in any of the last three games, De Boer doesn’t see himself making substitutions just to try to get more goals. “I think that Ten Cate did that once, and it went horribly wrong. Ajax immediately got scored against two times. You score goals because you’re doing well. Why would you make any changes in that situation? If we’re playing a good game, normally we would get more than one opportunity. Hopefully, we’ll then score enough goals. But again, the most important thing is to win.”
The fact that Ajax is meeting Heerenveen has both pros and cons, according to De Boer. “Normally, a certain tension is necessary in top sports”, he says. “On the other hand, Ajax is a great attraction for every Heerenveen player. I expect that they’ll be motivated. Maybe we can turn their intentions upside down by scoring quickly.”
Heerenveen is in twelfth place and has had an inconsistent season. “But they’ve had very good moments”, says De Boer. “They beat AZ when they were doing pretty well, and they won one point away at PSV. They’ve been doing pretty well against the top clubs. That’s because they play a more reactive football. And with Larsson and Zeneli, they have a couple of good players. The same goes for Slagveer when he plays.”