Ajax plays its fifth UEFA Champions League group match on Tuesday evening against Olympique Lyon. Frank de Boer’s team practiced on Monday night in the Stade de Gerland. Gregory van der Wiel trained separately due to a slight groin injury. Ajax only needs a 1-1 tie to ensure itself a spot with Champions League after the winter break.
On the eve of the Champions League match against Olympique Lyon, Ajax’s tumultuous week was a topic of conversation in Lyon. The agitation around the breach of trust between the Advisory Board and Johan Cruijff was addressed by De Boer only briefly. “I don’t know everything that went on, so it’s difficult for me to have an opinion about it. We will meet on December 12 (general shareholders meeting). Let’s stick to talking about football until then.”
And, fortunately, there’s enough football to talk about. Ajax is only a tie away (at least 1-1) from reaching the next round of Champions League. Whether the 0-0 tie from the first match is anything to go on is difficult to say. Especially since the French team have Gourcuff and Lopez at their disposal again, whereas Ajax are dealing with a long list of injured players. This is the reason that, for example, A juniors Davy Klaassen and Lesley de Sa (both 18 years old) are in France with the team. “It was a complicated puzzle to put 19 players together. Especially since Jong Ajax and Ajax A1 have commitments during these days. But the first team is the most important. That’s why Klaassen and De Sa are with us.”
Ajax needs a tied game with goals (1-1) to end in second place of group D. Competitor Lyon would then have a deficit that would be too big to make up one game before the end. “We need to play from our own strengths on Tuesday. I had a good feeling about our home game against Lyon. Although they were dangerous at times with transitioning. But, just like us, they don’t have a great series of games behind them.” De Boer once again emphasized the words ‘own strengths’. “Last season, we had a similar situation against Spartak Moscow. We played well at home (0-0), but couldn’t find our way in the away game (3-0). We’re duly warned.”
Due to the absence of players in their thirties, such as Bulykin and Ooijer, Theo Janssen is the only one in his thirties in Ajax’s selection. Kenneth Vermeer (25) and Jan Vertonghen (24) are the two next oldest players. Even Toby Alderweireld (22) is among the oldest. “These days, for sure”, said the Belgian. “I’ve been with Ajax’s A selection for three years, and I have quite a bit of international experience. I need to share that with the young guys in our group.”
It appears that Nicolás Lodeiro will be centre forward, just like he was in last Saturday’s match against NAC. “I don’t have many other options”, said De Boer. Gregory van der Wiel is still a question mark. The international is suffering from a slight groin injury and has been training separately with the physiotherapist. About newcomer Klaassen, De Boer said: “Just like Lodeiro, Davy is an attacking midfielder who can play centre forward. We’ll have to see if he’s ready, but he’s definitely very talented. Moreover, he’s a smart guy. In every respect, this is a great trial for him.”