The list of star players of Internazionale is only a little longer than the number of injured Ajax players, but the name and fame of the upcoming opponent nor the battered state of his own squad are reasons for Ajax coach Danny Blind to do many concessions to the playing style he envisions. The Ajax boss told the international press on Tuesday that his team will not withdraw to their own goal in the Champions League match against Italian giants Internazionale on Wednesday.
,,It's easier said than done, but wherever possible we have to depend on our own abilities, said Blind. ,,At the same time we realise that Inter has players with much individual quality. They have a lot of speed and creativity up front. We will try to defend as compactly as possible. I don't mean that we will retreat into our own box, because that's not our style. What matters is keeping the area which we defend as small as possible, so we can help each other as much as possible.''
Luis Figo, Alvaro Recoba, Javier Zanetti, Juan Sebastian Veron, Obafemi Martins, Adriano mainly: Internazionale's squad has many players with an impressive record. Next to formidable football skills, the Italian side harbours that which the Ajax sqaud lacks: experience. With the loss of veterans Zdenek Grygera and Tomás Galásek, both out four to six weeks, Ajax are even less experienced than they already were. Wesley Sneijder, Steven Pienaar and Nicolae Mitea are also ruled out for the important match. ,,All players who could have started'', said Blind. ,,But there's no point in dealing with who are not going to be there at great length. We have to find a solution.'' To have a full bench, Blind will call upon youngsters Jeffrey Sarpong, Michael Timisela and Robbert Schilder.
Blind praised the development of Inter under coach Roberto Mancini. ,,Much more than before, Inter are a unity, a team tuned to one another and willing to work for each other. Their last national title was in 1989. That shows that they haven't always been able to find the right mix.''
To field a balanced formation himself will be no easy task for Blind, who lets his choices depend on the availability of Juanfrán. The Spanish defender has played below his usual level the past weeks and complained about back problems, but he is able to play. ,,Juan is one of the few experienced players. I have to weigh that against other factors, such as the way we played the past weeks'', said Blind.
If Juanfrán plays, Urby Emanuelson could go to midfield. Nourdin Boukhari is another candidate for the vacant midfield spot. ,,Alongside Maduro and Lindenbergh, we need an offensive-minded midfielder'', said Blind who is likely to consider Jeffrey Sarpong at this point in his career too light for an international top match.
The coach gives his team a chance t reach the next round. ,,You would prefer to force a decision in the home match, but that's not very likely. We have to make sure that there's still something at stake in three weeks. We have to have a real chance by then. We miss more players than they do and they have more quality and experience than we do. In reality, they have to have a bad day and we a good one, and maybe that in two matches. There is that possibility and that is the charm of a knockout system.''