“This is the fourth game of the group phase, and it’s an important one. A lot is at stake.” Erik ten Hag knows all too well how important this visit to Benfica is. “We definitely have the possibility of getting closer to making it through the winter break in the Champions League. And it’s an opportunity that we need to go for”, said Ajax’s coach during Tuesday evening’s press conference.
Traditionally, and in keeping with UEFA practice, a player usually accompanies the coach at European press conferences. This time, it was Daley Blind’s turn. The left-footed player was a bit more direct than his coach. “You just said it yourself”, said Blind, indicating a Dutch reporter. “The next round is within our reach. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s a huge opportunity. We are very aware of this. We’re going to have to do our best to grab those three points.”
'Let’s not get ahead of ourselves'
Two weeks ago, Ajax defeated Benfica by 1-0, and increased its lead to 4 points. Ten Hag refuses to call it a done deal. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.”
The coach was supported by defender Blind: “We definitely shouldn’t underestimate Benfica and we’ll need to be fully concentrated. At the same time, we shouldn’t be scared and we need to play to our own strengths, and be confident in what we can do. We need to be brave and dare to play, that will be important.”
Blind was then asked – not for the first time this season – what his favorite position was. “I’ve been asked this question a hundred times and I’ve never given a concrete answer. I like being able to play in several different positions. Right now, it doesn’t matter to me what position I’m playing in.”