Anderlecht’s players were just making their way to their bus when Ajax’s players reported to the stadium in Anderlecht. Coach Frank de Boer and Toby Alderweireld sat at the press table and answered questions from the group of mostly Dutch reporters.
“We had a good trip”, said the coach, kicking off his press talk. The coach travelled with nineteen players, and will decide tomorrow which ones will watch the game from the stands. “As it looks now, Gregory van der Wiel will be available”, said de Boer to his audience.
The man who is facing his second European match as coach believes Anderlecht is an ‘interesting’ opponent. “They’re in good shape, they’ve been playing together for some years, and that’s clear to see. The team is a well-oiled machine. We know that it won’t be an easy match, and the Constant Van der Stock Stadium can be haunted. But let’s hope it isn’t tomorrow night.”
The last meeting between the Belgian team and Ajax was in Amsterdam, and Ajax was defeated 1-3. “We didn’t see that match again with the team. I was there myself and still remember it. But the team did watch Anderlecht’s most recent matches. They are more experienced than we are, because they’ve been playing together for longer. But if we do our job well, we’re just as good as Anderlecht. It’s going to be tough for us, but if we can play our own game, we should be able to book a good outcome here.”
Toby Alderweireld was reminded by a Belgian reporter of his first match under coach de Boer, the most recent European match. “AC Milan was a great example, so you build on that.”
After the press conference, De Boer and Alderweireld joined the players on the field, where they prepared for tomorrow’s showdown. With a round of keep away, a scrimmage and a much enjoyed exercise in finishing at the goal, with beautiful goals from, among others, the Belgian Ajax players Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld. Hopefully a good sign for Thursday evening’s match!