Rendez-vous during morning stroll

The traditional walk on the morning of game day led past the borders of the Como Lake, through a little market near the hotel where Ajax stay. The weather and the view were magnificent. On the terrace, where the Ajax players had an Italian coffee, two familiar faces showed up.

Ronald Koeman did not walk with the team. The coach stayed behind in the hotel to once again think the line up through for tonight's crucial Champions League match against AC Milan. The group left the hotel grounds through the flower garden, went past the lake, through the old streets of of little village Cernobbio to the town square. There, a little market where the local products were sold. The Ajax players hardly noticed, and neither did the locals notice the group of football players. It was time for a short break on a terrace on the square.

A man with long hair and a cap strolled over with his cousin to the tables where the Ajax players were having their coffee. Cries of joy went up when the two were identified as Clarence and Stefano Seedorf. Hand were shaken, chats were made and inevitably Stefano went to ask how things were in the Ajax camp. The youngest of the two Seedorfs is convinced of a good result for Ajax, the team for which the injured midfielder normally plays. Like many others he predicts a 1-1 draw.

Clarence Seedorf, who started his career at Ajax and now plays for tonight's opponent, is also injured. In the first match between the two teams he tore a ligament in his knee and he will be out until the end of the season. His teammate Pirlo will also miss tonight's match, while Milan's captain Malidini is uncertain. The defender has a broken nose and will play with a protective mask, if he is able to play at all. Midfielder Gatusso is suspended.

After the stroll through the Italian village Ajax went back to the hotel to eat and rest. ,,This great place we're staying automatically provides a sort of happy feeling'', says team manager David Endt. ,,But tonight we will have to fight and everybody is aware of that. The lads are motivated and the tension mounts as the day progresses. But it's not a paralysing tension.''

After lunch the players will retire to their rooms. Then the final decisions will be made about the players who were doubtful for tonight. Rafael van der Vaart suffered a concussion in Saturday's league match against Roda JC. The midfielder wants to play, but Ajax are not willing to take risks with a head injury. If he plays, he will start. Otherwise, Van der Vaart will not be in the squad for the match at all.

Defender Hatem Trabelsi seems fit enough to play. For Tomas Galasek, the match will probably come too soon, as is probably the case for Maxwell who has a sore ankle. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Jari Litmanen have recovered from their minor injuries sustained in the match against Roda.