The chance that Thomas Vermaelen is able to play in Sunday's away match against FC Twente is very small. The Belgian defender is still bothered by an ankle injury, sustained in the home match against NEC. Despite mild hamstring complaints, Wesley Sneijder is expected to be able to play, said coach Danny Blind on Friday when he met the media.
Ajax will miss Maxwell, Edgar Manucharyan, Nicolae Mitea and Kenneth Vermeer in Enschede. All suffer from injuries. Hatem Trabelsi will play on Sunday, but with Tunisia when they face Zambia in Egypt for the Africa Cup.
Blind announced Friday that he intends to return to the system with three forwards, three midfielders and four defenders, also in away matches. ,,We changed the system because of the circumstances: our position in the league table. If you analyse those matches, you can see how we performed. We have been leaning backwards and for instance against NAC we scored a goal out of nowhere. It is not a good starting point for us, but at that time I had no other choice. We came out of a period where we did not score for four matches in a row. Then you have to try something else.''
With the inception of the playoffs, a spot among the first five has been the target for Ajax, now that the national title seems further away than ever. With the differences in points with the nearest competitors so small, Blind had to change his team's playing style to get some immediate results. That is also why he has not used youth players to fill in the vacancies on the wings. ,,Those guys should not be seen as The Saviour. In the current situation, there would be too much pressure on them.''
The current team faces the coach with enough choices. Blind suggested that some players' uncertain futures can influence their performance. ,,Many players have their own little problems. One is wrestling with his form, others doubt whether to resign a new contract here and if not, where else to sign. It depends on the individual. If someone cannot deal with this, it might affect my choices, of course.''
Blind realised that whatever the circumstances, Ajax are supposed to do better. ,,Of the tweny goals we have allowed, nine came from set pieces. That's avoidable if you're sharp. For now, each match is an obstacle for us and we try to navigate around them as well as possible.''