Coach Frank de Boer and Christian Poulsen sat down at the table in the Amsterdam ArenA’s press room to look ahead to the upcoming confrontation against Real Madrid. “If we believe, we have a chance”, said the coach, speaking in Spanish and Dutch.
After a 1-0 away loss at Borussia Dortmund, Ajax plays its first home game against Real Madrid. It’s no small task, considering the historic results (Ajax has lost all four matches in the last two seasons against Real, without scoring). De Boer: “We knew that a tough opponent would come from that first draw. But it’s an amazing experience for the players. We just need to do our best and play our own game. We saw last season that things go pretty well when we do that.”
The fact that Ajax was ‘robbed’ of two goals at home in 2011 was mentioned by the coach more than once. “Those matches are still on my mind. We had opportunities last year, we even scored twice. It would have been 2-2 and then things would have been different for us. We had more possession, shot on goal more than Real Madrid, but they were very effective when they had possession. We don’t have that quality.”
That’s one area where Ajax can still improve, says Christian Poulsen during the press conference. “We did a lot of things well in Dortmund. But the fact is that we have zero points. The next step is to go out and get a good result. We need to be confident and take the things that went well in Dortmund into our game against Real Madrid. We missed some opportunities there. We need to be better in that, but at least we were creating them. That gives confidence.”
Because of Miralem Sulejmani’s injury, De Boer needs to fill in one spot in the selection differently than he has in the past weeks. “You look at the bench to see who you need. I think that the eleven guys are pretty much set. Ryan Babel didn’t play much in the beginning of the season before he came to us, so we need to be careful with him and let him rest when it’s possible. Danny Hoesen has been impactful during training and in Jong Ajax games. He’s been showing us that he’s ready. Now that Sulejmani’s injured, we’ll go to him.”
De Boer didn’t comment on whether or not Hoesen will get playing time against Real Madrid. But he did give a short, succinct analysis of the mighty opponent. “If you look at Real Madrid’s selection, you can see that they have the best team in the world. They’ve had their downs, but that’s over. If they put their minds to it, they’ll be back at their level. In terms of team capabilities and experience, Real Madrid is ahead of us. We hope to see progression with our team in the match against Madrid. It’s about time that we score against Madrid and stay on the right side of the score. That’s why we need to play as a team on Wednesday evening, and all believe in it. We can make life tough for many an opponent when we have that approach. We need to make sure not to have unnecessary loss of possession, because Real is deadly in transitions.”
Ajax – Real Madrid starts at 8:45p.m. on Wednesday evening. There are still tickets available for the match. Tickets can be ordered online through the link below, or the Ajax Experience on Rembrandtplein.