Prior to the previous two knock-out rounds of the UEFA Europa League, Peter Bosz had been very succinct. Against both Legia Warsaw and FC Copenhagen, Ajax had to win. Now, in the quarter-finals, daggers will be crossed with Schalke 04, and the balance is somewhat different, according to Bosz. However, at the press conference on the eve of the game, the Ajax coach made no indication of which team might be the favourite.
“We’re playing against a big club from a big football country. We’ll see. Against Copenhagen, the teams’ playing styles were very different. That’s not the case as much now, because I think Schalke plays very well. But there are quite a few differences in terms of our playing concepts. The question is which of the two teams will manage their style of play the best. We’re going to do everything we can to qualify for the next round.”
In a sold-out ArenA, Ajax will have to make do without the suspended Lasse Schöne. Bosz says that four players could potentially step in for the defending midfielder: Donny van de Beek, Frenkie de Jong, Jairo Riedewald and Carel Eiting. “Those are all of the guys who could replace him”, grinned Bosz. But he remained mute on which one of these players would get the assignment. “I always want the players to hear it from me personally, not from the media.”
Another Dane, Kasper Dolberg, could potentially be part of the game. After almost one month of absence, the centre forward is close to making his return. “He trained with us fully on Tuesday, and hopefully he’ll be able to train today, too”, said Bosz. “We need to see how he reacts to yesterday’s training. If he’s fit, I’m going to include him, but otherwise I won’t. The condition for a match like this is that a player needs to be one hundred per cent fit, whether he’s in the starting line-up or starts on the bench.”
It’s clear that Bosz speaks several languages. During the visit to Standard Liège at the end of last year, he spoke to the French-speaking reporters in their own language, and this time, Bosz showed his fluency in German. He even elicited some laughs after a joke. “In that case, you need to be with Marc Overmars, ich bin nur die trainer”, was Bosz’s answer when asked if Jan-Klaas Huntelaar will return to Ajax next season.
“Klaas – Jan is a super-player. I know that he’s played at Ajax previously, but I have no idea which season he’ll be with next season.”
Betting on several horses
Bosz is active in two areas with Ajax, and, when asked, wouldn’t put all of his money on one horse. “We need to set priorities. We really want to win the championship. In addition to that, we’re in the Europa League quarter-finals and we would love to be one of the last four teams. It would be strange if we just dropped one. That’s not fitting for our club. Ajax always wants to win everything. That’s what we’re going for. We want to perform as well as possible on both fronts.”