According to Frank de Boer, there is much at stake for Ajax in the last four games of the season. “There is still a lot for us to gain”, said the coach on Friday. “It’s of crucial importance that we finish in second place. As long as that’s not the case, we need to do everything we can in order to secure that position.”
Ajax is sitting on an eight-point lead against third-placed Feyenoord. There is no longer any point in looking at first place. If they defeat Heerenveen, PSV can dethrone Ajax as national champion.
During the weekly press conference, De Boer was extensively asked his opinion of PSV coach and good friend Philip Cocu. “Of course I’m jealous, because I want to be champion, but I’m glad for Philip.” According to De Boer, Cocu has grown a lot. “He’s obviously learned a lot from his first year. It was clear from day one which path Philip wanted to take. He clearly said that he wanted to take the next step with PSV, towards Ajax. He stayed true to his ideas and vision. That’s the trademark of a good coach.”
De Boer thinks that PSV has earned the title. “They were consistent, and we weren’t. Also, PSV scored more goals. Right now, they deserve to be champion.”
If Ajax finishes in second place, then they will need to play qualifying Champions League rounds early in the new season. De Boer was asked if he wants to have his selection ready extra early because of this. “That doesn’t matter, that’s always the goal”, said the coach. “It’s great to know early which people will be on board for the season. The goal is to have the selection in order at the start of the pre-season. Right now we’re at 90 or 95 per cent.”
For Sunday’s game, the aim is clear. “We need to beat NAC”, said De Boer with determination. It won’t be simple. “We know what their situation is. They haven’t lost their last three matches and haven’t had many goals scored against them. On attacks, during which De Zeeuw preps the ball for Tighadouini, they’re dangerous. Also, they have Seuntjes who does his thing and Sarpong who, as a former Ajacied, wants to show his stuff, just like De Kamps and Ligeon.”
Ligeon is currently being loaned out by Ajax to NAC. De Boer is positive about the development of the right backc. “We’ve obviously been analyzing NAC in the past weeks and Ruben has been making a good impression. There’s a reason we loaned him out. We wanted him to get playing time in the Eredivisie. He’s definitely made steps.”
De Zeeuw will be given his farewell by Ajax prior to the match. The midfielder played for Ajax between 2009 and 2011, after which he went to Sparta Moscow. “He deserves to be well received”, says De Boer of his former pupil. “Demy was with us for one championship, and he also won the cup with Martin Jol. I also worked with him in the Dutch national team and always got along well with him.”