On Wednesday evening, Frank de Boer and Mitchell Dijks took place in the Aker Stadium’s improvised press room for the press conference leading up to Molde FK – Ajax, the second group match from the UEFA Europa League.
Ajax and European matches haven’t been a match made in heaven so far this season. After a 2-2 draw in Vienna (CL qualifying round), a 0-0 game followed in Jablonec. Things need to turn around on Thursday, according to De Boer and Dijks. “At the start of it all, we said that if we want to make an impact in this group, we need to win all of our home games”, said De Boer. “Then we’d win 9 points and maybe get three more points in an away match. After the draw at home against Celtic, we now might need to win two away games. We certainly can’t afford to lose, and we’re going for the three points, to be clear.”
The Amsterdam team will try to post their first win in this group on Thursday evening, on Molde’s artificial turf. Considering Ajax’s recent results on this surface, this could work in their favour. “I don’t know”, said De Boer. “We’ll be training on it for the first time later on. They’re used to it. The weather conditions for artificial turf aren’t bad and rain can be beneficial for our playing style. But actually, our recent games on artificial turf have been good.”
The coach considers his team to be the favourite in this 350th European match. “In theory, at least. But Molde has proven that they can perform well as a team. They held their own against Standard Luik, which was pretty hectic, and they won 3-1 in a very hectic Istanbul. That that shows that they perform well under pressure.”
But the details about how Molde would be approached were not revealed. “They switch their tactics around”, said De Boer, referring to the footage he’d seen. “When they’re high, they want to apply pressure immediately. If they don’t do that, they hang back and wait patiently for their opponent to make a mistake. I think this team is very enjoyable to watch.”
Ajacieds coming through
Halfway through the press conference, a hilarious moment broke out. The players walked from their nearby hotel down by the water to the stadium, passing by the big windows of the press room. Physio therapist Pim van Dord and John Heitinga distracted the press the most from the coach and Mitchell Dijks. De Boer wasn’t fazed and waved back to them cheerfully.
Back to business. Dijks said that he can see the progress that his team has made. “We’re training well on tactics. We’re paying a lot of attention to detail. How have we kept a clean sheet in the Eredivisie for so long, but we can’t seem to do that in Europe? In Europe, the teams are fast on the transition. If we have possession for a long time, we get a bit sleepy. That won’t happen to us anymore”, he stated clearly. “We need to watch out for their counters, because they have several agile players.”
De Boer also said that Viktor Fischer is able to play ninety minutes. Moreover, he has a pretty good idea which three players will watch the game from the stands tomorrow evening.
The match against Molde FK starts at 21:05 on Thursday.