Ajax faces a difficult draw for this season’s UEFA Champions League. Coach Frank de Boer saw FC Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and Apoel Nicosia join his team in group F. “It will be a challenge to post an upset”, he said on Thursday evening in the Amsterdam ArenA.
This 2014-2015 season’s draw wasn’t particularly favourable for Ajax. “It’s not an easy pool”, admitted De Boer at the press conference. “Especially when we’ve made it our objective to get through the winter break. That will be tough against Barcelona and PSG. But last year, we showed that we are able to pull off upsets against clubs like that. But it will be difficult, definitely.”
Captain Niklas Moisander sat next to his coach. “Getting through the winter break is one of our biggest objectives this year and the group is very committed to this. Clearly, it’s going to be difficult against these teams. But last year, we got three points against Barcelona”, said the captain with cautious optimism.
The players need to focus on that positive result from last season against the top Spanish team in the ArenA in their quest to make it past the winter break this year. “Of course the chances have shrunk”, said De Boer. “You know you’re going to draw a giant out of pot 1, but drawing the strongest team from pot 2 is annoying. PSG has expressed its ambition to win the Champions League within a few years and I do see them as a potential winner within that time. They have a lot of confidence that they’ll get far this season.”
When asked about Ajax’s chances, De Boer is clear. “We’re in thirtieth place on the UEFA ranking, and Apoel Nicosia is below us. So we need to get six points from that team. I know they got far in 2012, and that they were in the Europa League last year, but I didn’t see many players I recognized. Barcelona is looking strong with their new coach Luis Enrique. It’s a great to play against them, but it makes it tough if you want to reach the next round. Nonetheless, I see it as a challenge to post an upset like we did last season at home against Barcelona. Now, it’s about doing that in an away match, too. We have more experience now that we have many players who have played in Champions League. They know what’s needed. We know it will be difficult, but I’m going to hold my head high.”