Confident but realistic, Frank de Boer is looking forward to the Champions League match on Wednesday against AC Milan. “We need to get the most out of ourselves, maybe even more”, said the Ajax coach on Tuesday in San Siro, the rossoneri’s home base.
“Normally speaking Milan is the favourite”, De Boer answered a question about who the favourite is in this last and deciding pool match in group H of the UEFA Champions League. The Ajax players need to win in order to continue in the Champions League in 2014. Milan only needs a tie. “We need to have a really good day if we want to win. Milan is especially strong in transitions, with Kaká as the ignition and Mario Balotelli as the finisher. We need to arm ourselves against that. But we’re going for it, one hundred per cent. We need to get the most out of ourselves, maybe even more than that. There’s an increasing line with Milan, but we’re in great shape, too. If we reach the level of our previous matches, we definitely have a shot. I think it’s about fifty-fifty.”
Niklas Moisander, who was at De Boer’s side during the press conference, is confident in a good result. “We’re in a very good phase. We haven’t had that many goals against, so we can go into this match with confidence.” The Fin was injured during the home game against Milan, and is pleased to be back on Wednesday. “It took a long time, but fortunately I was fit in time for Barcelona.” He was never apprehensive of losing his spot to the talents Joël Veltman (suspended on Wednesday) or Stefano Denswil. “No, I saw that Joël and Stefano did a good job, but I was never worried. I truly believe in my own skills.”
De Boer’s first match as Ajax’s head coach also took place in San Siro. On December 8, 2010, Ajax defeated Milan 0-2. “But this isn’t comparable” said the Ajax coach, looking back. “At that time, Milan had nothing at stake, while we were fighting for a spot in the Europa League. They left Zlatan Ibrahimovic on the bench, for example. If he were still playing here, they would never do that for Wednesday’s match.” The fact that Milan isn’t doing so well in Serie A is also a factor. “They’re 22 points behind the leader. If you’re realistic, they’re only really going for the other prizes now. The pressures on this match are very different than three years ago.”
However it may end, Ajax will have an educational evening on Wednesday. “These types of games make you stronger”, says De Boer. “Whatever the result will be. Players can always think they’re well prepared. When they win, they get confirmation and when they lose, they’ll need to do certain things differently the next time. The only thing I can do is give everyone as much confidence as possible.”
De Boer didn’t give anything away regarding the line-up. “We’ll only announce it tomorrow to the players. But all eighteen players are fit and can start on the squad.”
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