Senitment will play no part as AFC Ajax’s Zdenĕk Grygera returns home to take on his old club AC Sparta Praha for the second time in as many seasons tonight.
The Czech defender played at the Sparta Stadium last season with Ajax as they earned a 1-1 UEFA Champions League draw, but is hoping for a better result this time round as the Amsterdam side look to take a step towards the UEFA Cup knockout stage with a victory. "We are going to Prague with a simple plan: to get some points," the 26-year-old told uefa.com. "Sparta have lost their first two matches so are in a must-win situation. I am expecting a tough game because they will want to get back to winning ways after an unsuccessful start."
While he still holds the club in high regard, Grygera admits a change of personnel has cut off many of his links. "I had a really great period at Sparta," he said. "We won two league titles in three years and had a successful time in the UEFA Champions League, reaching the second group stage. "Sparta had very good team back then: Tomáš Rosický, Petr Čech, Jiří Jarošik, Libor Sionko and Radek Kovac," he added. "The club has changed a lot since then. There is a new owner, different coaches and the squad is almost completely different. The only current players I know are Jaromír Blažek and Tomáš Sivok."
That lack of connections may make it easier to focus on a much-needed victory, as Ajax have failed to win in their last two league games, a 1-0 home defeat by Eredivisie leaders PSV Eindhoven and a 1-1 draw at home against the less illustrious FC Twente at the weekend. "I don't think it's a sign that we have lost our form," insisted Grygera, adding that the sheer number of fixtures involving his team-mates may have had an impact on their performances. "We have had a very tough schedule, playing nine matches in under four weeks. I can't remember having had a full day off."
Time off is a precious commodity for Grygera, but he admits that spending time with his feet up is his favourite hobby at the moment. "When I have time off, I try to spend it with my family," he said. "Sometimes we go for a walk, or go to the city for a coffee or lunch or dinner. But mainly I want to rest: you won't find me doing anything physical because I use up all my energy during matches." Should tonight's trip down memory lane end in a victory, Grygera may yet get the chance to reward himself for his efforts with a good lie down.
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