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Ten Hag: ‘We’re in great shape for the cup final’

Ten Hag: ‘We’re in great shape for the cup final’

Despite the team’s busy match schedule, Ajax is ready for the KNVB Cup final on Sunday, against Willem II.  “We’re in great shape”, said Erik ten Hag during the press conference in Zeist.  “We’ve had enough time to recuperate: nobody’s in the red.  We’re focused on winning.”

After the 0-1 win last Tuesday in London against Tottenham Hotspur, the return game of the Champions League semi-finals awaits on Wednesday.   But they’re not yet thinking about the return, said Erik ten Hag.  All of their focus is on Sunday’s game, when Ajax will play the KNVB Cup final in Rotterdam.  “We’re in a specific rhythm, in which the upcoming match is the most important one.  That’s how we’re approaching each game, including Sunday’s final.”

'For many of our players, this is the first prize they could potentially win'

Ten Hag expects that Willem II will do everything they can to bring the cup back to Tilburg.  “For the Willem II players, it’s the chance of a lifetime.  I expect that they’ll come out with all guns blazing at kick-off.  But we’re ready, too.  For many of our players, this is the first time in their career that they can potentially win a prize.  It’s a unique opportunity for everyone.  It’s been 9 years since Ajax has won the cup, and that’s too long.”  

Time to reap the rewards of a good season
It’s not yet known which 11 Ajacieds Ten Hag will select for kick-off.  “We’re going to have a starting line-up that will need to beat Willem II”.  The coach indicated that his team’s motivation is very big.  “We set several goals at the start of the season.  The players want to go for it all: they’re holding the cards.  Now, it’s time to reap the benefit of our good season.”

De Ligt wants to play it all
Matthijs de Ligt won’t be asking his coach to spare him.  “I feel good, so I want to play it all”, said the 19 year-old captain.  “I’m looking forward to it, playing in a final is the greatest thing there is for a football player.  We’re definitely not looking at this as a nice prize in passing.  Our goal of this entire season has been to play for prizes.  We’re still in the race for three prizes, and we want to win the first one on Sunday.”

De Ligt: 'We’re the favourite: I feel the pressure to win'

Just like Ten Hag, De Ligt isn’t worried that Ajax has had to play so many more games than Willem II.  “We’re used to it, recently we’ve been playing every 4 days.  Everyone’s fit, everyone’s full of energy.” The defender expects nerves on Sunday.  “We’re the favourite, so I feel the pressure to win.  That’s much less the case when you’re the underdog.  So I’m a bit more nervous.  With this kind of game, I’m always extra focused.”