Ajax’s European double header against Jablonec will be interrupted by an away match at NEC. Frank de Boer wants his team, at all cost, to be sharp at kick-off in Nijmegen. “We can beat any Eredivisie opponent, but we need to bring everything we have to the game. Five per cent less can make the difference in whether or not the ball goes in, both for and against us.”
The day after the win against Jablonec (1-0), De Boer discussed the match again. “They played with ten men behind the ball. Then you need to make good decisions. The goal shouldn’t be to play position play, but to get to the opponent’s goal. Sometimes you just need to be opportunistic. That’s not only true for the person behind the ball, but also for the guys who need to make running plays. Jablonec needs to bring it in the return. Hopefully that will give us some more room.”
According to De Boer, all of the Ajacieds came out of the match relatively unscathed. “I haven’t heard of any complaints”, he says. “Daley Sinkgraven had a migraine last night, but he’s better now. He did the training today with us.”
“We need to see how the guys return tomorrow”, continued De Boer. “It would be good if I could make one or two changes and give a few guys a rest. Playing on Thursday and Sunday is pretty demanding, especially for young guys. Especially mentally. We’ve spoken to them about it. In this phase, it’s mostly about the rest. That’s the best way to prepare for NEC.”
The good news for De Boer is that his selection is slowly getting into fighting shape. The former international announced that Thulani Serero will most likely join the group training next week. Mike van der Hoorn is also recovering well. The defender was injured with the Ajax Reserves on Monday, and was on the field on Friday for the first time since. Van der Hoorn is working on his recovery together with Serero.
Viktor Fischer and Amin Younes are no longer injured, but still are not fit to play. De Boer wants to two wing forwards to play with the Ajax Reserves in order to gain strength. “That way, when they join the selection, they can play for ninety minutes. That’s not yet the case. Sometimes you can’t avoid it, like last night, Viktor was on the bench because Yaya Sanogo got injured. But ideally you want to have eighteen players who can play ninety minutes.”
On Sunday, Ajax meets recently promoted NEC, who has three points from the first two matches. De Boer had praise for the opponent. “NEC was Jupiler League champion last year, and the team is good, and plays well. Also, Faber is simply a good coach. He wants his team to play cautious football, but we’ll need to be alert on Sunday in transitions.”
In De Goffert, De Boer is counting on an open match. “I don’t think NEC will dig their heels in like Jablonec. We need to bring the same energy to this match as we did on Thursday. You’re always dependent on your last match. If we blunder against NEC, we’ll take that into our next match with Jablonec. It’s important that we travel to the Czech Republic feeling good – and ideally, with three points.”