Ajax is starting with a slight advantage in the return match against PAOK (2-2), but this doesn’t mean that the Ajacieds will play tentatively in front of their home crowd. Moreover, Erik ten Hag said, on the eve of the game, that they are going for the win. “Our attitude has be that we are going to win this game. That’s what we’re going for; and that what suits us.”
Daley Blind joined the press conference as well. The defender seamlessly agreed with Ten Hag’s words. “What the coach said: ‘we just want to win’. We don’t have a team that waits around, we want to take the initiative. That’s what we’ll try to do tomorrow.”
One week ago, Ajax experienced a weak period at the end of the first half. Two goals were scored against them. Ten Hag is convinced that his team has learned from this. “In this phase of the season, it’s logical that we’re not at a stable level. The tine isn’t optimally fine-tuned yet and the reflexes still need to be built in. Organizationally, those fifteen minutes weren’t good. But we discussed and evaluated it. It would shock me if it happens again tomorrow.”
Blind says that Ajax is just as hungry as one year ago, before the team had its historic European season. “We know that it’s a very important game. It’s just reality that we
need to play qualifying rounds. It was the same last year. Back then, we desperately wanted to get into the Champions League, and that’s the case now as well. These are very important games.”'Reflexes need to develop'
even though the team isn’t in top shape yet. “Last year, our reflexes weren’t there in the beginning, either. They need to develop. But that’s definitely going to happen now, too. Then, something great can happen.”
Should Ajax reach the next round, their focus can be completely on the play-offs. Ajax doesn’t have any competition games in between both matches. The home game against Fortuna Sittard has been postponed until September. When asked, Ten Hag admitted that he was happy about this. “Someone like David Neres is just back. It’s great to just be able to train. We haven’t been able to do that with this group yet.”'We expect that Noussair can play'
Ajax filled up on confidence after last weekend’s 5-0 win at home against FC Emmen. One smudge was Noussair Mazraoui’s injury. But the damage seems to be contained. “It looked like it was going to be a problem, but it’s all going fine. Noussair will join the training. After that, we’ll have to wait and see, but we expect good things. We expect that he can play.”
Another Ajacied, Kasper Dolberg, was discussed. Ten Hag refused to call it a dip in his form. “Kasper has had an excellent pre-season, and then played a great game for the Johan Cruijff Shield. After that he had one mediocre game against Vitesse, and he had to exit the PAOK game early because of an injury. What are we really talking about?”