In Ajax’s one hundredth Champions League duel, the team faced FC Barcelona. After last year’s upset, all Ajacieds were hoping for a repeat. This didn’t happen, and the Catalan team won, 0-2. De Boer was disappointed but he also saw the Ajax team that he wanted to see.
The former Barcelona player faced his old club for the fourth time, and his friend Luis Enrique, his former team mate, for the second time. Enrique won again, and he had some heartfelt words for his friend: "I see that Frank de Boer is doing good work at Ajax. He’s getting good results.”
Barcelona’s coach complimented Ajax’s play in the first half hour: “Ajax put good pressure on the ball. We had a hard time countering that. We did that better in the second half.”
De Boer could only be pleased with the start his team made: “I saw the Ajax I want to see, and that I saw last year. With lots of pressure and lots of football. It’s a shame that we didn’t reap the rewards. If we had had luck on our side then we would have gotten another penalty. We reached a good level in the first half, especially. But at this level it’s all about not making mistakes like Cillessen’s on that first goal and Boilesen’s, who was surprised to get the ball, which caused the second goal. We need to improve in that area.”
And Ajax can take more steps, believes De Boer, who acknowledged at the press conference that he’s assuming that he will remain Ajax’s coach next year. “We’ve tried to show what we can do. In the home duels against PSG and today against Barcelona, I’ve seen the Ajax that we want to see. The next step is that we play away games the same way we played the first half of this one. That’s when you can make the difference.”
This year, just like in previous ones, returning to Champions League after the winter break won’t happen. “That’s a shame, but if you have potential Champions League winners in your pool with such qualities as PSG and Barcelona, you know it’s going to be tough.”