On Monday afternoon, Ajax coach Martin Jol looked ahead to the critical Champions League match against Real Madrid. Keeper Martin Stekelenburg joined him behind the microphones.
The Ajax press conference leading up to their match against Real Madrid drew media from the Netherlands, Spain, and even England. The strong interest in the press conference indicated the scope and importance of the upcoming match.
Ajax needs to take home points during their last Champions League group phase match at home, especially as the point difference between teams is small in group G. Ajax is in third place with four points in four games. Real Madrid is the undisputed leader with ten points, and AC Milan follows with five points. The French team Auxerre is in last place with three points.
In any case, Maarten Stekelenburg isn’t afraid. “We need to enjoy ourselves and play football”, said the first goalie for Ajax and the Dutch national team. “We definitely have a shot. We didn’t play ball in Madrid. It’s clear that we’ll need to do that here”, said Stekelenburg, looking back on the 2-0 loss the team suffered in Estadio Bernabeu.
Real Madrid will be without Sami Khedira and scorer Higuaín on Tuesday night in Amsterdam. Both players are injured. Jol doesn’t think that the absence of these two players from Madrid will have much impact. “It doesn’t matter which players fill those positions, because they simply have amazing players.” Stekelenburg reinforced his coach’s words. Which Madrid players inspire him? “Mesut Özil is a fantastic player, and Christiano Ronaldo is the world´s best.”
In closing, Jol had nothing but praise for his Portuguese colleague, José Mourinho. “Mourinho is a great coach and a true professional”, he said. “I’ve played against him five or six times. He gets the most out of his team, and has proven that he’s the best in his profession.”
Ajax – Real Madrid starts on Tuesday evening at 8.45p.m. in the Amsterdam ArenA.