Early this afternoon, coach Frank de Boer and Ryan Babel walked through the press room’s big red curtains for the pre-game show of Wednesday night’s Champions League match against Manchester City. De Boer spoke about the clubs’ different philosophies, and emphasized that Ajax needs to post a good result in order to remain a player in Europe.
What’s at stake for Ajax is clear. The team hasn’t won a point this season in European play. Manchester City must also ‘do or die’, as the English team has only won one point in pool D. “If we still want to mean anything in the Champions League – or even have a shot at Europa League – we need to end this match well”, said Frank de Boer to a well filled press room. “The belief is there. We played badly against Real Madrid, far beneath our abilities. We played well against Borussia Dortmund, and with a bit of luck, we could have won. Hopefully we can show what we can do against City. We have faith that we can definitely do better than we did against Madrid.”
Dutch teams normally manage quite well playing against English football. Does De Boer expect that Ajax can play just as good a match against City as they did last year against their fellow Mancunians from United? “Although City has an international team, I think that we’ll have some room to move against City. We’ll have to be very careful with possession, because they’re also very fast in transitions. But I think that we can manage to get to some good football.”
Ryan Babel, who has played in the Premier League among others, will be a welcome addition for his young team on Wednesday evening. The centre forward is aware of that. “It’s obvious that I have that experience and if I can make a contribution, I will. The duel against Manchester City will be physical, and tough for us. They’re a good team and, in the years since I’ve been away from England, they’ve taken steps.”
As Manchester City and Ajax face each other on the field, so do two very different philosophies. City spent hundreds of millions to assemble this team. “Is that fair?” De Boer repeated the question. “They’re not doing anything illegal as far as I know. But the value of their offense equals our entire budget. That’s why we need to be inventive and creative, and we focus on our youth academy. I like that better than buying a team. We have a very different philosophy than City.”
Thanks to the English club’s enormous budget, coach Roberto Mancini has every type of centre forward available to him, and they’re all good or very good. “They’ve all proven that they have quality”, was De Boer’s answer to the question about who Mancini will play. “As a fan, I would love to see Aguero. He’s quick in the first meters, and smart. Although he’s not big, he uses his body well. He’s also good at headers. He’s an all-rounder.”
If Ryan Babel plays, he’ll be one of the most important men in front of the English goal. With his history at Liverpool, he’d bring invaluable Premier League knowledge into the game. “We’ll need to keep possession and move a lot. Then, we’d have a good shot against Manchester City”, said the Ajax player.
Ajax – Manchester City starts at 8:45p.m. on Wednesday evening in the Amsterdam ArenA. Tickets are still available. Click on the link below for information about ticket sales.