Coach Ronald Koeman was very realistic Tuesday during the press conference for the UEFA Champions League match against AC Milan. ,,When we miss so many good players, we cannot only rely on our own strength." At the last moment Wesley Sonck also pulled out with a back injury.
Ajax will more than ever adjust to the opponent tomorrow night. But that is only natural, when missing important players such as Hatem Trabelsi, John O'Brien, Steven Pienaar, Rafael van der Vaart, Zdenek Grygera and Wesley Sonck. ,,We had already adjusted our strategy because we miss so many players", Koeman explained. ,,We haven't adjusted it more because Sonck is also injured. Every one who cannot play is a problem. Losing one more player is a problem, especially when so many important players are already absent. But I am not one to dwell on that for long. We have to play anyway and every player that we put out there tomorrow night will have my complete confidence."
Ajax have to win to be as good as certain of a place in the next round. ,,I have always said that we have to win one of the two remaining matches", said Koeman. ,,On the other hand, we know who we are playing tomorrow. AC Milan have allowed very few goals. Again, we miss too many good players to do more than we will do on Wednesday."
How and with which players he is going to play, Koeman would not reveal, except for the remark that the style will not be too offensive. He even waived off a reporter's suggestion to tell all in Dutch and translate it badly in Italian. Koeman, smiling: ,,I don't think that is such a good idea. I already reveal more than other coaches. Normally I have few secrets and the training sessions are public. But today I wanted to have fifteen minutes in the stadium, without press and speactators, to make a few things clear in private. It was mainly tactical."
,,We will not play as offensively, but of course we have a chance. The funny thing is that this is our fourth match against AC Milan, and we played with four defenders and once with three and every time I had a good feeling about it. They were good games as well, we were not the lesser team, optically even better. But that was not reflected in the results."
Koeman does not expect Milan to adjust to Ajax. ,,I think they respect Ajax and although a win would put them in the next round, I don't think they will play differently from their normal style."
Ajax's coach did react to some names that were mentioned. ,,I expect Maxwell to be able to play. We will have to see if the training session of today will cause a reaction. Ibrahimovic left training earlier. His groin has bothered him for some time and he can decide what to do on training. He has that freedom. But he will be a hundred percent tomorrow. Jelle van Damme is with the group. Johnny Heitinga is fully fit. Of course you can never be absolutely sure if he can play at this level, he has not played there since his injury. But if you don't let him play, you'll never know. I hope so. And is Jari Litmanen fit enough to start tomorrow? You'll see tomorrow."