Ronald Koeman believes his AFC Ajax side must defeat Club Brugge KV at the Amsterdam ArenA on Wednesday night to have any hope of progressing from UEFA Champions League Group H.
Despite a brave performance, Ajax left the San Siro two weeks ago empty-handed following a 1-0 defeat by AC Milan. Despite that initial setback, Koeman believes that his side's fate is still in their own hands. "If you want to make it to the second round, you have to win your home games," said the Ajax coach.
'We know what to expect'
Last season's Eredivisie runners-up have never faced Belgian opposition in the Champions League but Koeman is prepared for the challenge. "We have watched Brugge in recent weeks and the Belgian players at our team [Wesley Sonck, Tom Soetaers and Jelle Van Damme] have also told us what to expect," he said.
'Strong physical side'
The former Dutch international went on to warn against complacency. "I have heard people say that it won't be that hard to beat Brugge, but they beat [BV] Borussia Dortmund [in the third qualifying round], so they are a good team," he said. "I'm sure it won't be easy.
They are a physical side and they are very strong. But they will have a lot of trouble with our midfield, which must bring us the victory."
However, Ajax will be without injured defensive duo John O'Brien and Zdenek Grygera while long-term casualty Jari Litmanen is still missing. The 18-year-old Nicolae Mitea has been added to the squad which defeated Willem II 6-0 at the weekend, with the Romanian left-winger having been impressive for the reserve side this season, scoring three times.
Brugge are also without two key players, with Andrés Mendoza and Sandy Martens both suspended having been sent off in the 1-1 draw against RC Celta de Vigo on Matchday 1. Midfield player Alin Stoica is ruled out through injury, while defenders Olivier De Cock and David Rozehnal are both doubtful for the game, as Trond Sollied, the Brugge coach, explained.
'We must wait'
"David will definitely have to wear a face mask, if he plays at all," Sollied said. "We will have to decide after our final training session, as he will only play if he can give 100 per cent. "Olivier also hasn't trained in the last few days because of injury and I also have to watch him during the last practice."
Sollied in good spirits
Despite his selection problems, Sollied was in good spirits, even making a joke after arriving late for the pre-match press conference. "Sorry but we couldn't find the stadium," he quipped, "We will be on time tomorrow!"
'We must be good'
The Brugge coach quickly became serious when talk turned to the match, saying: "
We not only have to be good, we also need the luck that good teams always have. That is the key to success, along with keeping the ball away from the Ajax players.
'Dare to attack'
"I have a philosophy: when we have the ball we attack," Sollied said. "When we don't have the ball we have to defend. It is important we have to dare to attack like we always do. We played in the Champions League last year and a lot of my players are internationals so they know what they can expect tomorrow."
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