Ajax can move one step closer to the UEFA Europa League quarter finals on Thursday, in its first confrontation with Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk. But Frank de Boer is expecting a good opponent in the Ukrainian team. “Dnipro plays good football” said the head coach. “They’re just a very good team. The fact that they eliminated Olympiakos says enough.”
Frank de Boer has an essentially fit selection at his disposal on Thursday. Only Arek Milik is a small question mark. “We’re going to train and test later, and then we’ll see tomorrow if Arek is fit enough”, said the coach during the press conference at Kiev’s stunning Olympic Stadium.
The coach expects a tough match against the Ukrainians. On Thursday, after the morning walk, the players will be extensively briefed on their opponent’s exact strengths. The coach already has a very clear picture. “Dnipro plays good football, they’re a team with an attractive playing style. Their backs come up and their defense can surprise you by coming up. The fact that they eliminated Olympiakos says enough.”
Obviously Ajax is hoping for as good an outcome as possible in Kiev, but what that means concretely is still unclear. “I don’t think 0-0 would be a great outcome”, said De Boer. “Clearly, keeping a clean sheet is important, but it’s good to score in an away match. Tomorrow, it’s all about being alert.”
Nicolai Boilesen, who was by his coach’s side at the press conference, doesn’t know what to expect, either. “It’s very difficult. I think we first need to see how the match goes. Next week, leading up to the return, we’ll have a better idea of what to expect.”
Ajax’s advantage is that it can look forward to playing in a sold-out ArenA next week in Amsterdam. Dnipro will have to make do with significantly fewer fans. Due to unrest in the east of the Ukraine, the team is forced to play in Kiev, which is about 400km from their actual home base. The Olympic Stadium, which holds 70.000 spectators, will not be very full. Boilesen: “I’ve heard that only around 10.000 spectators are coming. That feels a bit like the Legia match, where there weren’t any spectators. An empty stadium can work to our advantage. Especially in terms of communication on the field.”
De Boer thinks it’s fantastic that the return in Amsterdam is sold-out. “I don’t think that there are many clubs who could manage that. For us, it’s very motivating. It means that the fans truly believe that we can go further in Europe.”