'It’s an advantage to have to win'

'It’s an advantage to have to win'

Frank de Boer stands in front of the most important match in his young career as a coach. After half a season as head coach of Ajax, he can become champion of The Netherlands on Sunday, also his 41st birthday. On Friday afternoon, the Ajax coach looked ahead at the confrontation for the title between Ajax and FC Twente. De Boer is convinced of a positive outcome.

The scenario for the closest season finale of all times is simple. Ajax must win, FC Twente only requires a draw to win the title. As opposed to previous deciding matchdays, neither Ajax nor Twente depend on other teams, just on the outcome of their own duel. Frank de Boer considers the scenario of having to win as an advantage for Ajax. “Because then you know you must go full force for the ninety minutes. That releases extra strengths. Therefore, I see it as an advantage that we must win to be champions.”

To beat leaders Twente (71 points), Ajax (70 points) know what to do. De Boer: “Twente is a good, compact team. But I am convinced that we can beat them in our own stadium. Escpecially with the crowd behind us. Twente’s strengths lie in their physical power and set pieces. That was evident again last Sunday. We will need to handle that better and especially in a more smart way. Janko can of course not be as free as he was to head in the goal he made. That must change. We now will need to make the right decisions in such a situationl.”

With hindsight, De Boer is happy the Cup final was scheduled before the league’s decisive match. “For young players such as Boilesen, Eriksen and Ebicilio, it was very good to play such a final. Their lack of experience makes such matches valuable in their development. They now know what it is to cope with the pressure in a final. Certainly against Twente that is important, as they have had that experience last year, when they won the league”.

The young trio will again play an important role in De Boer’s line-up. Not so for Mounir El Hamdaoui. The Morrocan striker has not recovered in time from a hamstring injury he suffered during last Monday’s training session. “He ran some laps on Thursday with the fysio, but couldn’t finish those excercises. It would be a miracle were he to recover by Sunday.”

To secure the thirtieth national championship, De Boer will mostly count on Ajax’ own strengths against Twente. “We must try to and dare to play our own game. Of course there will be nerves, but I remember those as a player also. After the first whistle was blown, I always lost those immediately. To the question what he had entered on his Toto prediction form, De Boer was firm; “Yes, I entered a 1(home team win).” Nothing wrong with De Boer’s confidence level.