De Boer sees value in the Europa League

De Boer sees value in the Europa League

Ajax is one game away from the UEFA Europa League after the winter break. On Tuesday night, in Madrid, the Dutch champions will try to hold on to third spot in group D. Only if Manchester City defeats group winner Borussia Dortmund would Ajax need to win in Bernabéu against Real Madrid, who has already qualified. Frank de Boer: “Playing European matches makes us stronger in the competition.”

The match against Real Madrid comes at a good time for Ajax. Three days after defeating PSV, Ajax can once again measure itself against a high-level opponent. “I hope that the match against PSV has given the players self-confidence. Last season, we got a boost after the match against PSV. The most important thing from last Saturday was that we showed that we can impose ourselves onto big opponents too. And it’s obviously fantastic when you book a good result by doing just that.”
On Tuesday night, Ajax will fight for a spot in the next round of the UEFA Europa League. As long as Manchester City doesn’t beat group winner Borussia Dortmund, Ajax is assured of third place. If the English team wins in Germany, Ajax will also need to win in Bernabéu to safeguard its one point lead on City. “A tie won’t do us any good if City wins in Dortmund”, said De Boer. Ajax’s coach sees a lot of value in continuing in the Europa League after the winter break. “We want to show our qualities at every level. It’s also exactly by playing European matches that players can develop themselves. I hope that we’ll be active in the Europa League after the winter break. Playing European matches makes us stronger in the competition. I’m convinced of that.”

Kenneth Vermeer will be in the goal for the twelfth time in a Champions League match. Ajax’s keeper recognizes that such matches contribute to overall experience - maybe as much as ten times more than a regular Eredivisie game. “In the Champions League you’re almost always playing against the best teams from each country. And it’s always at these top level games that a mistake is punished immediately. That’s why I feel that it’s important for Ajax to come back after the winter break, so that we can play even more matches at this high level.”

One game before the end, Real Madrid is already assured of second place in group D. For that reason, coach José Mourinho will most likely be sparing a few of his big assets. Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Xabi Alonso, and the suspended Arbeloa, will be absent. But clearly, there are still many world class stars in the Spanish champion’s arsenal. De Boer: “We know that we can focus on other players. Xabi Alonso, for example, is a player who always creates a lot of depth. So that will now need to come from other players. But I still don’t feel that they’re any weaker if you look at their current match selection.”

Where that’s concerned, ‘big, bigger, biggest’ certainly applies to Real Madrid. “Real Madrid and FC Barcelona are the best clubs in the world. The difference between them and the number 3 team in Spain each year is incredibly big. That says a lot in such a strong competition. I’m convinced that they’ll both reach the semi-finals at least. With a few other teams, this Real Madrid is absolutely among the favourites to reach the finals.”