As the UEFA Champions League draw was made, new AFC Ajax captain Siem de Jong and his team-mates could only laugh as they were drawn with Real Madrid CF, Manchester City FC and the side that beat them 1-0 in their opener, Borussia Dortmund. This is not to say Ajax do not fancy their chances. De Jong, 23, is convinced the four-time European Cup winners' possession football can be effective against the champions of England, Spain and Germany.
How does it feel to be Ajax captain?
Siem de Jong: It is a great honour. This is my sixth season here; I've seen many players come and go. Jan [Vertonghen] has left, Theo Janssen is gone and I was next in line. I won't suddenly change now I'm captain. I'll just help the team as much as I can. I'd do the same without the armband.
What is a realistic objective for Ajax?
De Jong: We hope to go as far as possible, but it would be very nice to finish third [in Group D]. We'll certainly play to win. We have nothing to lose, so we can play with freedom.
Does the UEFA Champions League pose particular challenges for players?
De Jong: Mistakes can be fatal. We have a young group of players, and we have to try to play our own football. If we play our own possession game, we can make it difficult for our opponents.
Which midfielder are you particularly looking forward to doing battle with?
De Jong: We've played against Real Madrid in the last two seasons and haven't beaten them once. So it would be nice to play against someone like Xabi Alonso, and to go on and win that game.
What did you learn from those matches?
De Jong: We have to be careful we don't find ourselves thinking it's all going well and suddenly the ball's in the net at our end. We have to stay sharp, because every mistake leads to an immediate counterattack.
Ajax have a glorious history in Europe. Is that an inspiration or a burden?
De Jong: It's a motivation to succeed. People always expect a lot from Ajax and we will do our best to fulfil those expectations.
To learn De Jong's views on his position, weaknesses and idols read the rest of the interview in Champions Matchday magazine, available now on newsstands across Europe and in a digital version. You can follow the magazine on Twitter @ChampionsMag.
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