The Amsterdam ArenA’s press room was full, with ten large and smaller cameras, on Monday afternoon. A large number of reporters had also found their way to the stadium. The reason for all of this activity was the lead-up to the first Champions League home game of the season , on Tuesday evening against AC Milan.
At around one-fifteen, Frank de Boer and captain Siem de Jong entered the press room, after which press officer Miel Brinkhuis welcomed the group to the ArenA. The Italian interpreter then repeated the welcoming words for the few Italian reporters, and translated the entire press conference for them at the end.
Coach Frank de Boer has met this opponent often in the past. His greatest success as a player against that team was the 1995 Champions League victory with Ajax. His first showdown as Ajax I’s coach was in Italy against AC Milan. Ajax surprisingly won that match, 0-2. “There wasn’t much at stake for them at that point. But then, we showed how we wanted to play both at home and away. I hope that we’ll be as attentive against Milan as we were in the second half against Go Ahead, although I know of course that they’re an opponent of a different caliber than AC Milan. But it’s about keeping an eye on your organization, especially when you have possession. We’ve made good steps where that’s concerned, and I think we’ll be able to show that tomorrow.”
If the team can muster up a performance that is on par with last Saturday’s, then De Boer believes that his team has a chance. “We know that AC Milan has good players in its selection. We’ve seen, against PSV, that there are possibilities, both at home and away. With a bit more luck, PSV would have scored more goals. I have the same feeling with Milan as with Madrid. You start to feel that you’re better, and suddenly you’re down a goal. We need to be careful of that. The most important is that we try to get three points. If we want to be second, then that’s what we need to do. Our best shot at a good result is playing our own game.”
Ajax will be facing AC Milan’s good players, who won their Champions League match against Celtic, 2-0. De Boer threw out a nice comparison during the press conference: Mario Bolatelli with Lionel Messi. “You know that players like Messi and Balotelli can determine a match out of the blue. It’s hard to control that. They’ll always get the ball at some point. You need to watch the defense no matter what. Don’t think that you can take a risk. You can’t be facing forward, because they can come out explosively. We need to watch out for that.”
Former Ajax player Nigel de Jong received compliments from De Boer: “He’s the lock on the door, makes simple passes and always to the right color. He’s the motor at midfield, who is both a hard worker and a good player.”
An important man with Ajax is captain Siem de Jong, who’s back on track after his lung injury. “In the first matches, I was working on myself, because I had just returned from an injury. But now I can focus on the team again, which you saw on Saturday. Together with Poulsen, we managed to put pressure on Go Ahead. Three of four goals in that period came as a result of that. That needs to become automatic.”
Ajax man De Jong estimates that it’s possible to post a good result on Tuesday against AC Milan. “We did quite well against AC Milan a few years back. That was a different team, and a different time. But it should be possible with this team, too.”