‘We’re going for an upset’

‘We’re going for an upset’

At Tuesday afternoon’s pre-match press conference, Frank de Boer and Niklas Moisander looked ahead to the first UEFA Champions League match against Paris Saint-Germain. De Boer admitted that Ajax is in a ‘tough pool’ but emphasized that Ajax has shown in the past that they can perform well against top teams. “We’re going for an upset.”

Ajax may well be playing one of the favourites to win the UEFA Champions League tomorrow in the form of Paris Saint-Germain. At the very least, Ajax coach De Boer considers the Parisian team to be a contender for the top prize. The club has several times more budget than the Amsterdam team, which can be seen in the players in their arsenal. With players such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Maxwell, Marco Verratti, Edinson Cavani, Blaise Matuidi, Javier Pastore, the French team have player material which, ‘qualitatively, easily rivals Bayern München, Real Madrid and Barcelona.’ The Ajax coach also noted that the French team may lack a bit of experience compared to the other three clubs, who do know what it’s like to be in a Champions League final or semi-final. “Paris Saint-Germain is definitely a great team to watch”, said De Boer to the crowd in the Amsterdam ArenA’s well-filled press room. “They definitely try to play offensively.”

An interesting question arose about how Ajax will try to stop Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Captain Niklas Moisander was clear: “Stopping Zlatan is a big challenge. He’s very strong and technical.” Moisander has faced the Swedish centre forward twice with the Finnish national team. During their last meeting, the Fins did a good job in restraining Ibrahimovic. Moisander knows this from experience: “You can’t stand too close to him, but you can’t give him too much space. We’ll need to stop him as a team.”

Paris Saint-Germain is, just like Manchester City, for example, a sheik-owned club. A French reporter asked De Boer his thoughts on this development in football. Ajax’s coach was matter-of-fact on the subject: “They have every right to do that. We just need to be creative.” De Boer supported his comments using a quote from Cruijff: “They, too, can only play with eleven men.”

Making it through the winter break in Champions League would be a ‘great victory’ this season. In previous years, the Amsterdam team has shown against, among others, Manchester City, AC Milan and FC Barcelona that they are certainly not helpless. Ajax’s coach has faith that a good result is possible tomorrow. When asked where he sees possibilities for Ajax, he answered drily: “I don’t think it would be very smart for me to discuss that here.”