On Friday, Peter Bosz’s reaction to the UEFA Europa League draw was cautiously positive. Ajax was matched to Standard Luik, Celta de Vigo and Panathinaikos.
“With a Europa League draw, you would expect to get matched with clubs from the former East Block. Often, these clubs are relatively unknown to us. But now the opposite has happened, with opponents from Belgium, Spain and a club from Greece. These are all renowned football countries. The Primera Division is obviously world-class, and Belgium and Greece have a comparable level to the Netherlands. Just look at the UEFA coefficient rankings.”
When Panathinaikos was drawn into Ajax’s pool last Friday, Bosz’s thoughts immediately went to 1971. Just like for many Ajax fans, the Europa Cup 1 final between Ajax and Panathinaikos is engraved in Bosz’s memory. The 2-0 win at Wembley gave Ajax its first finals win in the 70’s in the highest European club tournament. “Because of that final, I always think of Panathinaikos as a great club. They may have lost to PAOK in the Greek competition play-offs, but they ended head and shoulders above PAOK in the regular season. And in any case, together with Olympiakos and AEK Athena, they are absolutely among the top clubs in Greece. For that reason, I rate Panathinaikos higher than PAOK (the club that Ajax defeated in the third qualifying round of the Champions League).
Spain’s top competition
Bosz is looking forward to the matches against Celta de Vigo. “Spain has a top competition. You see them in European competitions year after year. Look at last season’s European finals, with Real Madrid – Atlético Madrid in the Champions League, and Sevilla as the winner of the Europa League. Celta de Vigo had a poor start to competition last weekend, losing to recently promoted Leganés, but that doesn’t mean much yet.”
About Belgian cup winner Standard Luik, Ajax’s coach said this: “After finishing in seventh place last year, they haven’t had a good start this year. With five points in four matches, they’re stuck in the middle. But still, they traditionally are one of the top Belgian teams, with RSC Anderlecht and Club Brugge.”
Look at ourselves
“Obviously, the Champions League is the highest you can reach, but these Europa League matches are very important for the development of our young group of players”, says Bosz. “Moreover, there’s no point in saying that much about our opponents just yet. We need to first look at ourselves and win some matches. That’s what’s important right now.”