Ajax enjoys a good history against Willem II, but coach Frank de Boer refuses to count his chickens before they’re hatched. “The facts don’t mean anything right now”, said the Ajax coach during Friday’s press conference. “Willem II plays good football, and there’s a great atmosphere in the stadium. We’re definitely not underestimating them.”
In Brabant, Ajax can potentially win its fourth game in a row. Previously, they defeated Go Ahead (1-2), FC Twente (4-2) and Legia Warsaw (1-0). De Boer feels that an Amsterdam win is definitely not guaranteed. “Willem II has shown that they’re playing very well. They are where they should be. We need to make sure that we’re focused and leave Tilburg with good outcome.” The Tilburg team is in tenth place in the Eredivisie.
De Boer also discussed the UEFA Europa League win against Legia Warsaw. Ajax escaped in the second half thanks to Jasper Cillessen’s outstanding keeping, which prevented a goal against. “We can’t keep giving away those opportunities, it will end up costing us. I think that Armenteros would love to take advantage of that”, said De Boer about Willem II’s forward, who has scored nine times this season.
Ajax’s coach discussed the Legia match on Friday morning, confronting his selection with situations from the weaker second half. “Legia didn’t start playing the way we expected them to until the second half. Unfortunately, I didn’t see anything from how we trained in the way we played. I don’t understand that and we talked about it. I hope that they’ve learned their lesson for next time. The players saw afterwards that we suffered unnecessary loss of possession and that our play in the second half was much too static.”
Next to Cillessen, another player stood out: Riechedly Bazoer. De Boer had many good things to say about his midfielder. “His great playing doesn’t surprise me, because I know his qualities. It does surprise me that he’s already shown it a few times in a row. He’s still young and that was his first European match in the ArenA. But he passed with flying colours.”
According to De Boer, Bazoer’s hard work is starting to pay off. “We’ve invested a lot of energy in him. Slowly, he’s starting to realize what that’s about. I told him that he needs to be reliable for a team. In the beginning, he was much too skittish and easily phased when things didn’t go well, even in the second. He’s made big steps in terms of being reliable. At PSV he was a central defender, but we think he’s more of a midfielder. He has power and scoring capabilities, and he’s technical.”
Another player who has been performing very well lately is Nick Viergever. “Very positive”, is the Ajax coach’s assessment of the lefty’s performance and approach. “He’s making a good impression and radiates energy. I felt that we were missing a bit on defense. Davy Klaassen is energetic too and you want more players like that on your team. Nick is now showing it too, whichis why I’ve put him on the squad. Right now, I feel that Nick should be playing and I’m certainly planning on keeping him there if he continues to play like this.”
Willem II - Ajax starts on Sunday at 14:30.