'Ajax needs to make a good start in the pool phase'

'Ajax needs to make a good start in the pool phase'

On Wednesday in the Apostolos Nikolaidis Stadium, Peter Bosz looked ahead to the match against Panathinaikos, the first game of this season in UEFA Europa League.  The coach and his Ajax players are aiming for a good start in this pool phase of the EL.  As usual, Ajax will seek to impose itself onto the Greek team.

Bosz knows that things need to be much better than they were in the last European match against Rostov.  In the pre-match press conference in Panathinaikos’ stadium, the Ajax coach didn’t reveal much about how his team would approach that.  “We’re going to play from our own strength”, was the only thing that Bosz revealed in the cozy stadium’s basketball court.  The Panathinaikos basketball team’s home base had been converted into a press room.  “It’s obvious that we need to do things differently than we did against Rostov.”

The coach referred to Ajax’s previous game against PAOK in the third round of the UEFA Champions League.  Was this meant as a warning?  Bosz: “Panathinaikos is comparable to PAOK in some ways.  They can play with five defenders as well.  But every situation is different, as is every match.  And I don’t want to look to others too much.  We need to look at ourselves.  Who’s the favourite on Thursday?  I never like to make predictions like that.  It remains to be seen in the match.”

The two matches in a row in which Ajax kept a clean sheet have given Bosz’s team some extra confidence.  After Go Ahead Eagles – the last game before the interland period – Vitesse was defeated last weekend as well: 1-0.  Ajax played with essentially the same line-up for both matches.  The only difference for the second match was that newcomer Hakim Ziyech earned a spot in Bosz’s squad.

It remains to be seen which formation the Ajax coach will use against Panathinaikos on Thursday evening.  But it was fairly easy to read between the lines from Bosz’s comments on Wednesday: “I like consistency.  You always should seek balance in your squad”, said the Apeldoorn native.  “Balance is extra important at midfield.  We now have Hakim too.  I’m obviously dependent on who is fit.”

During Sunday’s home game against Vitesse, Bertrand Traoré was substituted out as a precaution.  After the last training, Bosz and the other coaches will know how far Traoré can go.  Traoré gave the impression of being pain-free in the last training session.

“We need to play a good match.  It’s important to have a good start in the pool phase”, concluded Bosz at the press conference.  After wins against the Eagles and Vitesse, the meeting with the Greeks comes at a good time.  “Our playing needs to gradually improve.  I don’t believe in sudden shifts; that it goes from bad to good very quickly.  That goes in moment and phases in a match.  You won’t get there within one match.  We can’t be inconsistent.  Ajax will do well tomorrow if we make Panathinaikos chase the ball.”