Ajax will face Standard Liege on Thursday with a very different team. Coach Peter Bosz said as much on the press conference taking place on the eve of the match. Ajax’s coach feels good about this. “The past few matches have shown that we aren’t necessarily weaker when some of the other guys play. So we’re going to assume that will be the case tomorrow, too.”
Bosz refused to reveal who would be playing. “I could say, because we’ve already decided, as a staff. But I want to tell the players first. It wouldn’t be very nice if they read about it on the bus on their way here.” A training session was planned for after the press conference.
In the previous match against Panathinaikos, Ajax had already been assured of reaching the next round, and Bosz only played a few of his regulars. According to the coach, something similar could happen against Standard. “You can pretty much count on that. There will be several of those guys”, he answered, when asked whether only a small number of regulars would be at the starting gate, just like against the Greek team.
The fact that Ajax has been able to travel to Liege without any worries is a reward, according to Bosz. “We’ve worked hard for this. The fact that we qualified for the next round so early, and won the group as well, is an ideal situation.”
Matthijs de Ligt joined the press conference as well. It was the young defender’s first one for a European match. “This is new for me, but really great”, beamed De Ligt. “I think this experience will be good for my development.”
De Ligt had prepared calmly for Sclessin, Standard Liege’s home base. “In the bus, I read a book by Ruud Gullit, ‘Kijken naar voetbal’. And then, with a smile: ‘I always play cards with the guys from the Under 19s. But I’m not part of the first team’s cards group yet. That might come later on.”
The young defender knew what Ajax can expect from the game. “I’ve heard that the Standard supporters go crazy during the game and totally support their team. But I’m used to the ArenA, so I think it will be fine.” De Ligt is someone with both feet planted firmly on the ground. Even now that his career has shifted into high gear.
“I’m happy with my development”, said De Ligt, when asked. “I’m playing with the first team on a regular basis, which is something that I never would have expected last season. But it doesn’t influence me much personally. I’m just doing my best, and I’m still seeing the people that I was seeing before. Not much has changed for me, in fact.”
The fact that De Ligt joined the press conference was a ‘good sign’ for him. As has been the case in the past few months, Bosz doesn’t hesitate to play the young players. The coach is very comfortable with this. “If I had any doubts where Ajax or Dutch football was concerned, then I wouldn’t do it. But we all know that these guys are ready. Now it’s time for them to show us.”