Ten Hag about the CL-draw: 'It's not impossible in this group'


Headcoach Erik ten Hag watched the UEFA Champions League draw last Thursday from home. Ajax faces Sporting CP, Borussia Dortmund and Besiktas in the group stage of the biggest club tournament of Europe. 'We have to have six very good matches.'


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Hello Erik. We’ve seen quite positive reactions to the draw, what do you think?

"First of all, it’s not impossible in this group. But we have to have six very good matches. Because it’s a very strong group, with Dortmund as the favorites, I think. The Bundesliga is a very strong competition and Dortmund is a very exciting opponent with a lot of pace and technical ability going forward."

"Then we have Sporting Portugal. Portuguese sides are always difficult for Dutch teams. We saw that this week with PSV. In our case, we knocked out Benfica two years ago, so we know how we have to go about that. But they are the Portuguese champions and they’re a very strong team. We are very lucky to able to be very well prepared for them with a Portuguese expert, Mitchell van der Gaag in our staff."

Is Sporting a club we've to proceed with caution?

"What do you expect from the Champions League? And we haven’t even talked about the fourth team, but Besiktas, that’s really a dark horse. Without a doubt, in that tie against that team, you can go for it. But, just like with Sporting, if you are champions of Turkey, then you’re a good team."

And when you saw Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain together, didn’t you have the feeling of, ‘oh, please not that?’

"No, I have to be honest, I didn’t watch the draw."

Vitesse is around the corner...

"Exactly, I’m thinking about Vitesse. At the same time, my son was keeping me up to date, he was watching the draw. That would have also been fantastic, of course. If you can play against those kinds of teams, that’s so unbelievably challenging. Anyway, you have no control over the draw. You have to take it how it comes. We know what it looks like now. We’re waiting for the match schedule. It’s clear that this is a draw that makes you excited to start."

The last two seasons, the team has not made it out of the group stage. Is it then, especially in this group, with big ambitions, a requirement to qualify?

"No. Because as a Dutch club, you can’t think of it that way. You’re coming up against very strong teams. We have become more experienced, but we have to have six very good nights. But again, that’s the challenge and we’re looking forward to it. We have fought to be able to participate at this level. We want it. We will be very motivated and with a lot of self-confidence going into it."

We would like for it to happen, but it doesn’t have to...

"We always must. We impose that on ourselves. It’s only a question of if it’s realistic. A lot of things have to go our way. I’ll say it again, we must have six good matches. We will have to be very good, especially in the final phase. We can learn from our experience the last two years. In November and December, you must be at your best. Everyone. The team has to be in better form than it is now and you have to make it happen."

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Ajax faces Sporting, Dortmund and Besiktas in the UEFA Champions League

Ajax is set to face off against Sporting CP, Borussia Dortmund and Besiktas in the group stage of the UEFA Champions League. This group was the outcome of Thursday evening's draw in Istanbul, Turkey. The first round of the largest European club tournament is scheduled for Tuesday, September 14 and Wednesday, September 15.


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