After a fantastic win against FC Copenhagen, Ajax is through to the quarterfinals of the UEFA Europa League. On Friday afternoon, the Amsterdam team drew the German team Schalke 04. Ajax.nl talked with Peter Bosz about a wonderful evening of European football, as well as the upcoming competition match against Excelsior and the next European opponent.
So? Did you fall asleep immediately after the game yesterday?
“Absolutely not. I didn’t get home until late due to all of the press activity after the game. And once I get home, I watch the game again. I didn’t get to bed until around four in the morning. This has nothing to do with the win, in fact. This is my routine after every game.”
Did any unexpected congratulations come your way?
“The number of messages and apps I received was staggering. You can really see that we had a very special performance. But, on the other hand, I realize that we haven’t won anything yet, so my thoughts turned to the upcoming round fairly quickly, because we want to get through that one, too. We’re going to do everything we can to achieve that.”
'We’re focussing on the competition again’
Schalke 04 was drawn as your opponent for the Europa League quarterfinals. What are Ajax’s odds?
“We want to go as far as possible. My first thoughts with Schalke are: big club from a top competition. They have a lot of international experience and a big, modern stadium. We need to analyze the current team very well. That’s Tonny Bruins Slot’s job. I’m not working on that very much. Right now, we’re focussing on the competition again.”
What did you discuss with the team today?
“It’s our job to keep the Eredivisie and Europa League separate, but on a day like today, it’s impossible to do that. Not so much because of the euphoria, but because the draw took place today, after the training. So we all watched it during lunch in the players’ home. But as of now, we need to switch our fous to Excelsior.”
What’s the situation with injuries?
“Joël Veltman suffered a bruise that preventing him from continuing in the game. But he trained today, so it seems to be better. And otherwise, everyone’s fit.”
Davy Klaassen was suspended for Ajax – Copenhagen, but he’ll be back on Sunday. How important is that?
“It’s great that we showed that we can do well even without Davy. But that doesn’t take away the fact that he’s extremely important for the team. I’m happy that he’s available again. Not only because he often scores key goals, but also because he brings so many elements that we definitely need in order to succeed on Sunday.”
The team needs to recharge its batteries soon after a tough European game. How do you ensure that Ajax can perform optimally?
“As I said, today was mainly about the Europa League, but we need to flip the switch now. We’ve had to do that before on a Friday, so it’s nothing new. Our players know that Excelsior does well at home and that Ajax has had a hard time there in recent years. But everyone knows how important it is to bring home three points on Sunday.”
17 year-old Matthijs de Ligt was called up for the national team. Was that a surprise for you?
“I’ve been in contact with Dutch team coach Danny Blind, so I was aware of his plans. Everyone is asking for Matthijs now, just like it was a few months ago with Kasper Dolberg. This makes sense because the way Matthijs is performing at age 17 is pretty special. People are selling him short by only looking at his performance from yesterday. He’s been training with us since the summer and has now played in thirteen official matches, four of which were international.”
Nick Viergever has also been selected for the Dutch team after a long time. What do you think?
“I’m proud of all of the players who have been selected, not only the Dutch ones. Ajax can be proud of that. On the other hand, it’s extra pressure on the race for the title. But it’s a form of appreciation and great for Nick’s confidence, as well as for the others.”