Prior to Monday evening’s practice, Ajax coach Frank de Boer and new father Miralem Sulejmani – whose son Luca was born on Sunday evening – took their seats at the press table. In a fully packed press room, they spoke to the Dutch and Croatian football reporters present.
The first question was, of course, about Ajax keeper Kenneth Vermeer. The powerful goalie was injured as a result of a collision in Sunday’s match against AZ. “Kenneth’s doing fine’, answered De Boer. “It was a scare for us, but he was just nauseous. Fortunately he recovered quickly.”
There will be no surprising changes to the starting eleven. “Everyone who played on Saturday is fit. We don’t have an extensive selection right now. There are several injured players, like Nicolai Boilesen, Thulani Serero, and Kolbeinn Sigthórsson. That’s why we brought Jody Lukoki and Dico Koppers from Jong Ajax. It’s a great experience for these Jong Ajax players.”
Ajax will have to give everything they’ve got against Dinamo Zagreb on Tuesday evening, if De Boer’s team wants to keep its chances of playing European football after the winter break alive. The coach emphasizes this. “It’s all or nothing tomorrow. It’s a critical match, because we want to be in second place in this group, so we need to win. If we only want to get through the winter break in Europe, then we need to play to a tie at a minimum. This selection has many attributes, but hasn’t lived up to its potential yet. You keep hoping that it will happen in the next match.”
De Boer’s team certainly has the right attitude and fighting mentality. This attitude and mentality is what kept Ajax battling to eventually come back against AZ. “There are points in a match when you can simply go for a tie. But if you want to play Champions League, you have to go for the win”, De Boer underlines this again. “We want to at least tie, but preferably, we want to get three points.” Miralem Sulejmani knows that he and his team mates need to be fully on attack. “We need to take initiative, be patient, and keep looking for the best solutions. Just like Dinamo, we see this as our opportunity to make the second round of the Champions League.”
De Boer has nothing but praise for his upcoming opponent. “They will go for the win full on, this home match is important for them. Dinamo has a talented team, and the players are young, like Ajax’s. In every match, they leave a very passionate impression, they’re very driven. You know that you’ll play this type of match. We need to get it, because we have the European experience. That’s what I want to see tomorrow evening.”