"We need to make fewer mistakes," said Jürgen Klopp as he suggested his Borussia Dortmund side had learned from last year's early exit as they prepare to face AFC Ajax.
Article top media content
Borussia Dortmund cannnot afford an early slip-up against AFC Ajax if they are to improve on last season's early UEFA Champions League exit, according to coach Jürgen Klopp. While Klopp is confident his team are more savvy than 12 months ago, his Ajax counterpart Ronald de Boer admitted his young side "still need to gain experience".
Coach Jürgen Klopp
Ajax are banking on extremely young, highly talented players. In the past years, since Frank de Boer took over, this has proved successful again. It is always incredible to see what a huge number of technically gifted players come out of the Netherlands in general and from Ajax in particular. Ajax are extremely attack-minded, very quick, with very strong attacking tactics – a real challenge for us.
We have defined our way of playing successful football and we will not change things too much for the Champions League. Our problems [last season] did not have much to do with our playing style but [were rather] a result of lacking experience. That's what we want to work on. We have gained a lot of international experience now and we have also learned that our football is working. But we also learned that we need to make fewer mistakes to get results. We made bigger mistakes in Europe last season than in the Bundesliga – and unforced ones at that. In the entire team there is a feeling of us having to win this match against Ajax tomorrow or we are already out again.
Saturday: Dortmund 3-0 Bayer 04 Leverkusen (Hummels 29, Błaszczykowski 39, Lewandowski 78)
Weidenfeller; Piszczek, Subotić, Hummels, Schmelzer; Gündogan, Kehl, Błaszczykowski (Leitner 81), Götze (Perišić 69), Großkreutz (Reus 60); Lewandowski.
• Dortmund are unbeaten in 31 Bundesliga games and are just five games short of Hamburger SV's record set in 1982/83.
• Kevin Grosskreutz and Marco Reus made their 100th Bundesliga appearances.
Klopp confirmed a clean bill of health for his squad in the wake of the Leverkusen game.
Coach Frank de Boer
I wouldn't say Dortmund play untypical football for a German team. They have a huge work ethic, they are very energetic, but they play attractive attacking football.
I always tell my players that we don't have to win at any cost. The main thing is to play our game. Last season's match against Manchester United is what I think of when I talk about playing good football. We have a very young side who still need to gain experience and that's how I and the players see these games – as an opportunity to collect experience. Of course, we still want to win them.
No matter how Dortmund group their midfield, we will try to play between their lines. It depends a bit on the way their central defenders play.
[Marco] Reus and [Mario] Götze are both outstanding players but it doesn't really matter if Klopp decides to play both of them together. We would not be really surprised by this [...] It is the same with Ryan Babel: if he plays, it doesn't matter so much where he plays, but what he makes of it. It is important that he does what is asked. He has some experience in Germany and I hope he will bring this experience to the game tomorrow.
Saturday: Ajax 2-0 RKC Waalwijk (Schøne 52, Lukoki 68)
Vermeer: Van Rhijn, Alderweireld, Moisander, Blind; Schøne, Poulsen, Eriksen: Sana, De Jong, Boerrigter.
• Ajax extended their unbeaten Eredivisie run to 19 matches. They have won 17 games and drawn twice since their last defeat against FC Utrecht on 5 February.
• Lasse Schøne scored his first goal in Ajax colours.
The trio of Eyong Enoh (knee), Nicolai Boilesen (hamstring) and Kolbeinn Sigthórsson (shoulder) are all missing. Babel is expected to start along with Siem de Jong in attack and Christian Poulsen as a holding midfielder.
Ajax coach De Boer played in the team that overcame Ottmar Hitzfeld's Dortmund when these clubs met in the 1995/96 UEFA Champions League quarter-finals. Absent from the 2-0 first-leg success in Germany – where Edgar Davids and Patrick Kluivert scored – De Boer appeared in the second leg as Kiki Musampa struck the only goal for Louis van Gaal's hosts.