There was a touch of double Dutch about Celtic FC's Lennoxtown training centre last Thursday as the Hoops began the countdown to Tuesday's vital UEFA Champions League fixture against AFC Ajax.
After leaving the Amsterdam club during the summer, Derk Boerrigter was looking forward to a reunion with his former team-mates. However, an ankle problem which has dogged the winger since the opening day of the season looks set to rule him out, meaning Boerrigter cut a frustrated figure as he waited to speak to a Dutch television crew.
Further along the corridor, Celtic's other Dutch summer signing, Virgil van Dijk, was in an altogether happier place as he laughed and joked with staff on his way out after the morning training session. The former FC Groningen centre-back has adapted quickly to life in Scotland, forming a promising understanding with Efe Ambrose. His manager Neil Lennon is urging Van Dijk to go out and impress Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal, who will take in Tuesday's match at Celtic Park.
Frank de Boer admitted he considered taking Van Dijk to Ajax during the close season before opting to blood another home-grown talent – but Van Dijk and Boerrigter's experience and inside knowledge may be key factors in a double-header which will likely decide the ultimate outcome for both clubs in Group H.
Another of the summer arrivals, Teemu Pukki, was the first to arrive for our UEFA interviews and as we waited to start, the Finland striker was clearly still in awe of Franck Ribéry's performance against his country 48 hours before at the Stade de France where the hosts won 3-0.
The 23-year-old idolised compatriot Jari Litmanen as a youngster and picked up many tips from Raúl González during his time at FC Schalke 04, lessons he now wants to put into practice by claiming his first UEFA Champions League goal. "The atmosphere at Celtic Park against Barcelona was unbelievable and I hope I can score my first goal against Ajax," said Pukki.
Kris Commons knows what it is like to score at Celtic Park on European nights and words like "special", "passion" and "exciting" tripped off his tongue as the midfielder savoured the prospect of another memorable evening in Glasgow's East End. Sadly for Commons and Celtic, a suspected hamstring strain picked up two days after our interview could sideline him for the Ajax match. With captain Scott Brown and Adam Matthews already absent through suspension and injury, the onus falls on the rest of the squad to secure Celtic's first three points in the group.
For Van Dijk especially, the visit of Ajax would appear the perfect time to open his scoring account for the Hoops.
The opinions expressed here are the writer's own and not those of UEFA.
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