Ajax resumes Eredivisie play this weekend with a game at PEC Zwolle. Leading up to the match against the current number 16 in the Eredivisie rankings, the main topics of conversation were the ill Andre Onana, Justin Kluivert’s development, transfer rumors and, briefly, Sunday’s opponent.
Nearly fifteen minutes into the press conference, Peter Bosz got up from his chair. With a broad smile and smack on the table, he answered a resounding ‘yes!’ when asked whether he would like to talk about PEC Zwolle. In the previous fourteen minutes several topics had been discussed, but not the match taking place in Overijssel in which Ajax will resume its bid for the championship. “I think PEC is ranked too low. In the last little while, I’ve watched several matches and I’ve concluded that they’ve been pretty unlucky. Red cards, unfortunate penalty kicks…things haven’t gone their way.”
Bosz continues: “To be honest: in the past few years, PEC has been among the top teams after a few matches. But that’s maybe too high up for them, considering their abilities. And when you win the cup and the Johan Cruiff Shield as well, then expectations rise. And the outside world thinks the players can do more than they actually can.”
On Sunday, PEC will have face Ajax without three suspended players. Pillar Wout Brama is also no longer there, having left for FC Utrecht two weeks ago. On Ajax’s side, keeper Andre Onana is a question mark. The Cameroonian was absent from Friday’s training due to illness. “The doctor has seen Andre and he was too sick to come to the club. Will he be able to play on Sunday? I don’t know how he’ll feel tomorrow. If he can train, then he can play. Kasper Dolberg was sick on Tuesday, but he was able to come to the club the following day. It can be over pretty quickly.”
Should Onana be unable to play, then Tim Krul may potentially make his debut in the match selection. Bosz wouldn’t say whether the loaned out player from Newcastle United would keep. “But we are talking about a keeper who has played in the Dutch national team. He has many qualities. But we can’t forget that he’s been sidelined for a long time due to a serious injury. Fortunately, he’s now completely fit. At some point, he will get playing time. For that, he’s depending on what the situation at Ajax is”, said Bosz about the 28 year-old goalie who has played a few matches with the Ajax Reserves this season.
After the winter break, Ajax filled up on confidence thanks to a 5-1 friendly win against RB Liepzig, the Bundesliga’s second-placed team. “But that result doesn’t mean that much. We can’t bring those points or goals to the Eredivisie. But it does say a lot about our feeling. It’s good, because we played very well against a very good opponent. I was extremely pleased.” When asked whether or not Ajax can win the championship, Bosz answers: “Of course. We’re five points behind Feyenoord, and we should be able to make up that difference in points.”
Justin Kluivert will be in Sunday’s selection, his second time. The 17 year-old forward recently warmed the bench at the game at FC Twente. He’s still awaiting his debut. Bosz: “Will he definitely be with the group? At this moment in time, yes. It has a lot to do with staffing. Except for Amin Younes and Anwar El Ghazi, we don’t have any fit wingers available.” Pelle Clement and Vaclav Cerny are injured and Bertrand Traoré is at the Africa Cup. When asked whether El Ghazi will remain at Ajax, the coach answered: “I’m not going to entertain speculations. I’m basing my decisions on the facts. I can use all of the players who are here now, and that’s what I do. Marc Overmars decides which players stay and go. But if we can keep this group together, I’d definitely be happy.”
Hakim Ziyech will definitely be in Zwolle. The star has not been called up to the Africa Cup by the Moroccan national coach, so he remains available to Ajax. “I’ve spoken to Hakim about it and he’s taking it well. He’s training hard.” In contrast to Ziyech, Feyenoord player Karim El Ahmadi will be playing in the tournament in Gabon. Will that make a difference between Ajax and Feyenoord in the next few weeks? “I don’t have a crystal ball, but it would be nice if it did”, concluded Bosz.