On Wednesday evening, Ajax plays the critical UEFA Champions League match against Real Madrid. If they tie, Ajax will be certain of a spot in Champions League after the winter break. A defeat could be sufficient also. Ajax will have to play Spain’s leading team without Toby Alderweireld. The Belgian has been out since Tuesday with a hamstring injury.
Alderweireld’s injury is a serious blow leading up to the Real Madrid duel. In a seemingly harmless duel with Aras Özbiliz, the Belgian defender hurt his hamstring. De Boer will thus need to find an alternative to complete the team’s defence. Daley Blind, Gregory van der Wiel and Vurnon Anita were named as possible replacements for Alderweireld. 'Ricardo van Rhijn is an option too, but I see him as a substitute. Especially since he played 90 minutes with Jong Ajax on Monday on a tough field.”
With Alderweireld’s absence comes Miralem Sulejmani and Dmitry Bulykin’s return. Sulejmani trained fully with the group on Tuesday morning, just as Bulykin did. This was to De Boer’s satisfaction, who addressed the press both in Dutch and fluent Spanish. “They are both available”, said Ajax’s coach, who still has a long list of unavailable injured players.
Real Madrid will be without a few key players on Wednesday as well, although that has nothing to do with injuries. Among others, Christiano Ronaldo and Iker Casillas stayed back in Madrid, partly due to the upcoming match against FC Barcelona, and because there is nothing at stake for pool D’s winner. “But that doesn’t mean that Real Madrid has come with a B team, because they have all A players. It’s a fully qualified selection. Even if they don’t play with their strongest line-up, they’re still a strong team. That was obvious two weeks ago when they played a so-called B team against Dinamo Zagreb, and they were leading 3-0 within 9 minutes.”
De Boer fully trusts that Ajax will hold on to second place in the group. This valuable spot assures a place among the last 16 teams in the Champions League. The three point lead on Olympique Lyon, combined with a much better goal balance (+7), makes a ‘very big difference’ according to De Boer. As far as Ajax’s coach is concerned, Ajax doesn’t need Dinamo Zagreb’s help. “I’m convinced that we will get one point at least against Real Madrid. In that case, we don’t need Zagreb’s help, although of course we’ll be watching the halftime score of that match.”
Vurnon Anita agrees with his coach. The multi-faceted Ajax player feels that there is an especially important role for the fans in the ArenA on Wednesday night. On the eve of his tenth Champions League match, he emphasizes the importance of the atmosphere is a sold-out ArenA. “After Lyon-Ajax, Jan Vertonghen said that December 7 should become the new May 15. If I look back to that, the only thing I can say is that it will be very important that the fans are behind us. I hope we’ll all experience a great evening together.”
A few tickets are still available for Ajax – Real Madrid. No Club Card is required for this important UEFA Champions League match, ticket purchase is free to the public.