It appears that Nicolas Lodeiro will be in the striker’s position in Lyon. The 22 year old Uruguayan native will be designated to lead the attack, partly due to many injured team mates. The dress rehearsal against NAC (2-2) went well for him personally. On Tuesday, he’s once again hoping to add value. But this time, with a win as a reward.
Lodeiro’s hunger was palpable last Saturday when he came in to substitute for Dmitry Bulykin. With Sigthórsson, De Jong and Bulykin injured – and an experiment with Eriksen in the ‘Messi role’- it was finally Lodeiro’s turn. Since January 2010, his playing time with Ajax has been limited, in part due to injury. That’s why he grabbed this opportunity with both hands. “I just want to play. It doesn’t matter where.” And then: “It’s only as a keeper or as a defender that I wouldn’t be much use. But otherwise I can play all positions. Centre forward, too.”
This is a testament to Lodeiro’s will power. Two long term injuries kept him back. Now that the Uruguayan has been fit again for some time, he wants to show what he can do. He delivered both goal assists against NAC. “I was pleased with the way I played and my contribution to the team. But we gave the win away at the end. You can play a good game personally, but if your team doesn’t get a good result, then it doesn’t matter. Everyone has forgotten about it.”
During the morning walk in the Parc de la Tête dÓr, a new conversation partner arrives at his side every few minutes. From Christian Eriksen to Miralem Sulejmani, and player steward Herman Pinkster and coach Frank de Boer. With this last, his role within the team was undoubtedly discussed. Due to the many absent players, it’s players like Lodeiro who now need to pull Ajax through. De Boer’s Spanish, from his time in Barcelona, comes in handy, although the Uruguayan international’s English has improved quite a bit lately. “And a bit of Dutch”, he adds.
Considering the current standing in group D, Ajax only needs a tie with Olympique Lyon with enough goals. If the score is 0-0, the goal balance (in Ajax’s favour) after the last group match against group winner Real Madrid will be the deciding factor. Supported by 1.850 Ajax fans who made the trip, Lodeiro knows what he needs to do with Ajax. The interim centre forward isn’t thinking about a tie. “A tie would be enough for us, but we want to win. It will be tough, because Lyon is also fighting for its last chance. Moreover; there are no easy matches. Especially not in Champions League. So it would be all the better if we make it through to the next round tonight. I’m ready.”