Tuesday 16 January 2018

Ajax wary of their 'crazy' fans ahead of Champions League visit by Celtic

Ajax's Stefano Denswil fouls Celtic's Anthony Stokes (10) in their Champions League game last month
Ajax's Stefano Denswil fouls Celtic's Anthony Stokes (10) in their Champions League game last month

Ronnie Esplin

FRANK De Boer hopes the tiny percentage of Ajax fans he describes as "crazy" do not disrupt tomorrow night's Champions League clash with Celtic at the Amsterdam ArenA.

UEFA opened disciplinary proceedings against the Dutch club after some of their supporters clashed with police and stewards during the Group H game at Parkhead last month which the home side won 2-1.

Evidence of damage to seats in the away section of Celtic Park also came to light after "instances of disorder" were dealt with by police in Glasgow ahead of the match.

The case will be dealt with by UEFA's control and disciplinary panel on November 21.

Speaking today at the pre-match media conference at the Ajax stadium, the Dutch coach praised his side's supporters for the way they backed their team at Parkhead, saying, "there were moments when they made more noise than the Celtic fans did which was fantastic".

However, De Boer admitted that some Ajax fans remain a concern when asked if he was confident of the game passing off trouble-free.

"I am confident in that but you never know," said the former Rangers player.

"There is always some crazy people (who) try to disturb something but hopefully it will not happen.

"There have not been so many incidents like that over the last couple of years.

"Of course, it was a bad thing they did in Glasgow and hopefully they will be punished for that but normally 99 per cent are good supporters."

The Dutch champions are bottom of Group H with one point from three games, two behind third-placed Celtic and four behind AC Milan with Barcelona topping the section with seven points.

De Boer is aware of the importance of the game against the Scottish champions - victory is needed if they are to have a realistic chance of playing European football in the new year - but admits the sad news about his former Ibrox team-mate Fernando Ricksen puts the importance of football "into perspective".

Ricksen, 37, revealed last week that he is suffering from motor neurone disease.

"It is quite sad that a colleague a little bit younger than me has that disease," said the former Ajax and Holland defender.

"I feel sorry for him. He will get a lot of support from his family and ex-colleagues and I can only be sorry for him.

"That puts everything into perspective. We have to realise that football is a nice game but there are more important things in life than three points."

Returning to the Celtic game, De Boer acknowledged Scotland manager Gordon Strachan's assertion that the Hoops will complete the double over Ajax but insists he will not use it to motivate his players.

In his prediction, the former Celtic boss said: "The Ajax team will develop - they look like a youth team - I don't think anybody has had a shave in that team."

De Boer said: "He made a joke about us being so young and everyone takes it seriously.

"I don't think you have to search for motivation from other areas, you have to search from within yourself, for your own team, for your own honour, for your own club.

"It is weak if you get motivated from those kind of quotes.

"We think we will succeed tomorrow if we play the same as we did in Glasgow.

"If you look at that match we had chances and a lot of good moments.

"Celtic didn't create any chances but scored twice and won the game.

"They can be confident, they have had some good results in the last year, (beating) Barcelona for example, so they can be confident.

"But I saw good things from my side in Glasgow so I also have confidence in my team that we can get three points here and then we are one point ahead (of Celtic).

"It is a crucial game for us. For them, a draw is maybe enough so they can wait more than they did in Glasgow.

"We have to force the game but we are in good shape to create chances and get the three points."

Celtic go into the match sitting third - and above Ajax - in the group after picking up their first victory against the Dutch giants at Parkhead a fortnight ago.

Mjallby believes tomorrow’s match is an important one for the Scottish champions but says it is not a must-win game.

He said: "No, not at all. But it's important that we get something from the game.

"I think there's more pressure on Ajax because we are above them in the table.

"If we can take something from the game, we are still in a good position.

"A win and three points would be a dream."

He added: "Of course they are beatable.

"We have already beaten them once so why can't we do it twice?"

Mjallby agreed that this clash with Ajax is Celtic's biggest game so far.

He said: "It is because this is our chance now to finish in the top two in the group.

"It's going to be massive for us to try to get something.

"There is massive pressure on Ajax as well because if they can't beat us tomorrow night, they are going to be in all sorts of trouble when it comes to their chances of going through."

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