On Wednesday evening, Ajax plays FC Utrecht in the second round of the KNVB Cup. After a disappointing tie against ADO Den Haag, a good challenge awaits in de Galgenwaard. Frank de Boer has decided to use keeper Jasper Cillessen during cup matches. Rookie Fabian Sporkslede (19) replaces the injured Thulani Serero in the match selection.
Two days after the 1-1 tied match against ADO Den Haag, the focus had completely shifted to FC Utrecht by Tuesday. At first glance, another difficult away match awaits Ajax on Wednesday evening, although De Boer hasn’t dwelled on that too much leading up to the game against Utrecht. “Everyone has processed the disappointment with the ADO game by now. They have to, because tomorrow we have another match to play. We need to be ready. And ‘being ready’ is mostly a question of attitude and sharpness, because when it comes to playing football, they all can. Several players didn’t have that attitude and sharpness against ADO. But, assuming you have some pride, you’ve been warned. And forewarned is forearmed, of course.”
On Wednesday, Frank de Boer will call on roughly the same players as he used in the matches against Borussia Dortmund and ADO Den Haag last week. Only the injured Thulani Serero (groin) will not be among the eighteen. His spot in the match selection will be taken by 19 year old rookie Fabian Sporkslede. The midfielder (number 40) has made an excellent impression on De Boer in the last few weeks. He’s earned his spot in the selection thanks in part to that. “Fabian has earned this. He played very well last week with the A1 team in the NextGen Series. He also made a good impression on me last night with Jong Ajax.”
Sporkslede is originally a defender, but has been playing at midfield for some time. De Boer: “I think that Fabian’s strengths are better used at midfield. He has the capability to fill the position of controller. Since he’s been playing there, he’s been improving constantly. And he’s even been making big improvements in the past few weeks. Now that we have a few injuries (Eyong Enoh, Thulani Serero) on this position, things can go very fast.”
Over Serero’s injury, De Boer says: “It’s mostly tough for Thulani himself. He had set certain goals for himself for this season, among which to play more minutes than last season. And that was happening. Moreover, he was important for the team in the first phase of the season. So a guy like that obviously wants to show more of what he can do. Unfortunately, he’ll be out for a while.”
De Boer is now looking forward to the beginning of the cup tournament. “It’s different than the competition, because with cup matches, it’s all or nothing. It can all come undone in extra time or penalty kicks. That always gives a cup match something extra. Especially when it’s against a great opponent like FC Utrecht. Those are matches that everyone looks forward to. Moreover, the cup is a prize. It’s not the most important one, but it is a prize that we would like to win.”
The Eredivisie’s current number 5 team is described by De Boer as a ‘difficult team to play against”. “They play a tricky system with two centre forwards, or sometimes with one centre forward and wingers who actually aren’t wingers. That makes them a tough team to play against. For us, that means that we need to have good communication among ourselves. We also need to try to make as few stupid fouls in our own end as possible. It’s when play resumes that FC Utrecht comes on strong, especially at home. So we need to avoid that.”