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Ajax alert to Celta danger

Published: Wednesday 22 October 2003, 5.38CET
Unbeaten RC Celta de Vigo's visit to AFC Ajax has huge significance in a tight Group H.

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Published: Wednesday 22 October 2003, 5.38CET

Ajax alert to Celta danger

Unbeaten RC Celta de Vigo's visit to AFC Ajax has huge significance in a tight Group H.

Group H seems to be panning out as the tightest of the eight UEFA Champions League pools, so giving the visit of RC Celta de Vigo to AFC Ajax clear significance.

Concentration vital
Ajax lost at AC Milan on Matchday 1 before beating Club Brugge KV to go second in the group. They are a point behind the holders but one ahead of Celta, who drew their opening two fixtures. Home coach Ronald Koeman, who helped Ajax through two similarly close groups last season on their way to the quarter-finals, knows his side must concentrate against their dangerous Spanish visitors.

Dangerous Celta
Koeman said: "They play with four strikers who walk around the field but are still good. But I have an overall picture of Celta. They are dangerous from free-kicks and corners. We have to be focused when those situations appear."

Van Damme steps in
Ajax would be happy to transfer their domestic form to the European arena: they lead the Dutch Eredivisie with seven wins from eight games. Koeman brings in young Belgian Jelle Van Damme for the injured Julien Escudé in the centre of the defence and the coach has no doubt the 20-year-old is up to the task.

Back trouble
"Escudé has had some trouble with his back for the last week," Koeman said. "He is not 100 per cent so he will not play, as it is going to be an important and tough game. Van Damme is a very strong defender who can always put his foot on the ball."

Koeman confident
As for the visitors, Koeman added: "Celta have some experienced players, like [Aleksandr] Mostovoi. We have to be very good to defeat them but we did the same against Brugge, so I know we can. It is important that our players are looking forward to this kind of game. They want to play in the Champions League, despite the opponents. They are not afraid to play."

Good result needed
Celta coach Miguel Ángel Lotina, whose side suffered a 2-0 defeat by Real Madrid CF on Saturday, believes his side must put that loss behind them. "Games in the Champions League are different to league games, and we must not think about Madrid," he said. "We have done well in the Champions League so far. It is important to get a good result from Amsterdam."

More ambition
Having seen his side score just once in their opening two games, the Celta coach is promising a more ambitious approach against Ajax. "I could not forgive myself for playing defensively, and neither would the supporters," he continued. "We must be brave. Ajax leave a lot of space behind their midfield players and we have to use that."

'Playing for second'
With Milan top of the group, Lotina is realistic in his aims. "We are playing for second place," he said. "A draw here would be a good result, but it is dangerous to go into a game thinking like this. Maybe we might defend more if it is still 0-0 with only ten minutes to play."

Last updated: 22/10/03 11.05CET