De Boer counts on a good result

De Boer counts on a good result

On Wednesday evening, Ajax will attempt to take its first step towards the UEFA Champions League main tournament. In the historic (for Ajax) Ernst Happel Stadion, Rapid Wien is the opponent. Frank de Boer and captain Davy Klaassen looked ahead on Tuesday, just before the training. Klassen: “If we do the things we are good at, I expect a good result.”

The Champions League win from 1995 was obviously a favourite topic during the press conference in the Ernst Happel Stadion. ‘The memories from 1995 are great. Will we win 1-0 tomorrow? I’ll sign up for that’, tweeted Frank de Boer earlier. At the beginning of the evening, he discussed it more extensively. “During the drive to the stadium, we spoke about the great moments from back then. As a player, I definitely was in a sort of tunnel towards the finals during that time. I don’t remember much because of that. I only truly remember the moment when I hoisted the cup. I would love to go back in time to re-live that moment.”

At the time of that final, Klaassen was 2 years and 3 months old. Still, Ajax’s captain can share some memories of that final match against AC Milan. “At home, we had a video tape of Ajax in the Champions League. We watched that so many times. Because of that, I can imagine how it was.” During the press conference, De Boer remembers more. “I remember a defensive play and a header just before the break. The whole match wasn’t memorable. It was a very bad game.”

Back to the present-day. In the first match against Rapid Wien, Ajax hopes to post a good result before the return in Amsterdam. De Boer: “This is the most important match of the season.” Klaassen: “If we lose both games against Rapid, we won’t play Champions League. The group is focused on that.” Ajax’s captain had a completely different experience during this year’s pre-season compared to previous years’. “Before, we played many friendlies and started with the competition or the Johan Cruijff Shield. Now we need to be even quicker. Normally, if you would lose the first match, it wouldn’t be a disaster, but in the CL qualifying rounds, it is. But if we do the things we’re good at tomorrow, I expect a good result.”

Cillessen uncertain

It is still unclear whether Ajax will be able to call on keeper Jasper Cillessen for this first critical match against Rapid. On the eve of the departure to Vienna, he had some trouble with his calf after the last training in the Netherlands. “We’ll need to wait and see how Tuesday’s training goes. After that, we’ll see if he can play.” When asked whether Cillessen’s injury is real, and not an indication of a potential transfer, De Boer replies: “No, he really has an injury to his calf. Fortunately, I would add in this case.”

De Boer describes opponent Rapid as a ‘very complete team’. The Austrian team started their competition promisingly last week, with a 3-0 win against SV Ried. “Rapid was Austria’s second-placed team last season for a reason. We can’t allow them to get into their game, because they have a good team.” The last meeting with an Austrian team didn’t end well for Ajax. Ajax was eliminated from the 2014 UEFA Europa League by FC Salzburg. “We played too openly against FC Salzburg”, evaluates De Boer in hindsight. “We should have played much more compactly. Rapid isn’t Salzburg, but it is a team that likes to apply pressure towards the front. Hopefully we’ll have our own answers to that on Wednesday evening. Would I be satisfied with a draw? I never like 0-0. 1-1 is better because of the away goal.”