'Hopefully the big brother will win on Sunday'

'Hopefully the big brother will win on Sunday'

Frank de Boer called Sunday’s home game against AZ a top match.  At Friday’s weekly press conference, Ajax’s coach had many compliments for the rising Alkmaar team – they have won their last eight official matches.  “I think they deserve all of the credit.  AZ is having a great streak and has earned its third placed ranking.”

De Boer also complimented the way AZ’s is playing.  “They’ve got good rhythm right now.  They’ve had some bad luck with the way the cookie has crumbled, injuries and people who have left, but right now it’s working.  I can totally see that the crowd enjoys watching them.  AZ doesn’t wait but is trying to dominate, and has an offensive approach.”

One of the revelations of the Eredivisie has been Vincent Janssen.  The centre forward was at Almere City last season, and had some contact with Ajax.  De Boer was asked if Janssen could eventually be an option for Ajax.  “Yes, maybe in the future.  He’s developed well in the past seven months.  Perhaps they were not expecting this at AZ, and perhaps we weren’t, either.  I think that this turned out to be the best step that he could have taken.   There’s less pressure at AZ than there is with us.  There are many players who took steps up the ladder.  Look at Van Nistelrooy, who went from Den Bosch to Heerenveen, and then on to PSV.  In the end, quality always comes through.”

Most efficient

Ajax’s centre forward Arek Milik was on the back burner for a while, but he showed his qualities by scoring two goals against Excelsior.  De Boer would not reveal whether the striker would be on the starting line-up against AZ.  “I’m always looking at how we can obtain the best efficiency.  Sometimes that’s with Milik, and sometimes it’s without him.  Look, we don’t have eleven good players, we have fifteen or sixteen of them.  That keeps everyone sharp.  Moreover, substitute players know that if they do their best, their chance will come.”

Fellow title contender PSV was discussed, namely their European adventure. On Wednesday, coach Philip Cocu’s team held Atlético Madrid to a 0-0 draw in their Champions League round of sixteen match.  “Everyone knows that we would have loved to have been on that stage, too.  I’m truly happy for Philip and it’s great for Dutch football that a club from our country is among the last sixteen.  But I am definitely not jealous.”

Own youth

De Boer was asked if Ajax would be looking for a player like Guardado, the PSV veteran who guards the lines.  “If we had the opportunity to bring in a player like that and he would add value, then we wouldn’t walk away.  But if we don’t lose any players, we have enough quality to go one round further, hopefully, should we get into the group phase.  First, we look to our youth players.  It was too early for that combination earlier in the season, but now the guys have developed some more.”

On Sunday, De Boer will meet his good friend John van den Brom.  He holds the AZ coach in high esteem and sees him as a candidate for Ajax.  “Wherever John has coached, you can see Ajax’s line.  His teams always try to play from a specific point of view.  There are many similarities with Ajax.”

De Boer was asked if he sees the upcoming match in the Amsterdam ArenA as being Ajax – mini Ajax.  The coach denied this: “It’s mainly a North Holland derby.  AZ has everything in order, both with its youth and with its first team, and they are knocking on the door.  Hopefully, the big brother will win on Sunday.”