National champion Ajax will open the new Eredivisie season on Sunday with an away game against Vitesse. Frank de Boer is pleased that Ajax starts the competition at home, although he realizes that home court advantage hasn’t produced any wins against Vitesse in two seasons. For Ajax, the challenge to win three points this weekend will be all the bigger.
The biggest lesson of the defeat in the Johan Cruijff Shield, according to De Boer, was the lack of care taken with ball possession against PEC Zwolle on Sunday. The result was that PEC was regularly able to profit from Ajax’s sloppiness and Ajax, in turn, was virtually unable to create opportunities. De Boer: “If you want to dominate, you can’t be sloppy with your possession. Hopefully the lesson has been learnt.”
In Vitesse, Ajax will meet an opponent who has found its way up by leaps and bounds in the past few seasons. “Vitesse is no easy opponent. We need to be very alert in order to avoid a bruise. The players need to be switched on immediately, on Sunday, at the start of the Eredivisie”, said De Boer on Friday after a long morning training. “We often have trouble with teams which just dig in. This isn’t the case with Vitesse, but we’ve had trouble with them regularly in the past few seasons. They’ve made a lot of progress in the past yeast. This season, Vitesse has lots of quality and speed in the team. They can attack dangerously at any loss of possession. Because Ajax and Vitesse both like to apply pressure to the opponent’s half, the matches of the past few years have been very open. That will probably be the case on Sunday, too.”
Ajax needs to make do on Sunday without Van Rhijn (thigh), Robert Muric (not yet match fit) and Viktor Fischer (thigh). However, De Boer will have Nick Viergever at his disposal, as he’s recovered from his knee wound. Everyone else is fit and ready to play. That also goes for World Cup players Jasper Cillessen, Daley Blind and Joël Veltman. De Boer announced on Friday that the trio will be part of the match selection. Obviously, they won’t play for 90 minutes. Ajax’s coach is counting on them for half of the match at most.
During the press conference at the Toekomst, Rafael van der Vaart’s name came up. De Boer contacted the 109 time international two weeks ago to ask him about an eventual return to Ajax. “I called him and asked how he would feel about playing centre forward for us. That would be the position for him at Ajax. Rafael immediately said that he wants to focus on HSV this season. He had a very bad season there last year, and this year he wants to make his comeback in Hamburg. He wants to show that he’s still an important player for HSV.”
Ajax – Vitesse starts on Sunday at 14:30. Tickets are still available.