Ferreira: “The result of the draw has not changed our target”
The two respective head coaches, Abel Ferreira and Erik ten Hag, spoke to the media ahead of the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round first leg between PAOK and Ajax in Thessaloniki.
This is the nightmare scenario for PAOK. Generally, the Champions Path is considered the easier route to the group stage, but PAOK have been pitted against last season’s semi-finalists Ajax. Nevertheless, despite the obvious class and pedigree of the opponents, PAOK will still be full of belief that they can pull off a major shock and keep their Champions League dream alive.
With the first leg set to take place at the Toumba Stadium on Tuesday, PAOK manager Abel Ferreira shared his expectations for the duel in his press-conference:
Thoughts when being drawn against Ajax: “The only thing which I can ask of my players is for them to give their all from the first whistle to the last. We have to perform at our level, all of us are aware of Ajax’s capabilities. However, the challenge comes from within, rather than from the opponent. Ajax is a club full of history which bases its style of play on a team game. They have a specific style of football and we have to be ready to take advantage of any weaknesses they show. Our strategy is key.”
Readiness of Omar El Kaddouri: “All of our players are important for me. Everyone wants to do their best. I want all of them to give 200% on the pitch. Omar will be in the team for the match.”
The identity of Ajax: “Ajax definitely have a specific identity. Sometimes, they makes changes to their approach based on their opponents. Ajax is a club full of history which uses its academy to good effect. From our point of view, I also want PAOK to have its own identity so that we can create problems for Ajax. We want the star of this team to be the team itself. The fans will help us with their support, and I thank them for making this game a sell-out. In difficult matches, the Toumba Stadium can play a big role in the end result. An ideal result would be winning without conceding any goals.”
PAOK’s approach: “The more united we are, the more stronger we are. I believe that we will play with plenty of passion. Regardless of the opponents, we want to write new history for this club. The result of the draw has not changed the goal which we are aiming to achieve. We always play to win, no matter who the opponents are. The supporters share this ambition. I have to be both realistic and ambitious.”
Change of strategy for Ajax: “There may be some tactical changes. You always have to consider the capabilities of your opponent. Every player has to manage their emotions in the correct manner and give 100% on the pitch for the entire game. If we do that, we have a great chance.”
Ajax boss Erik ten Hag isn’t taking anything for granted against the reigning Greek champions:
Thoughts on PAOK: “This was the toughest possible draw for us. PAOK won the double last season and finished the league unbeaten. Remember when we played Standard Liege and Dynamo Kyiv in the 2018/2019 campaign? They weren’t easy opponents at all. Nevertheless, that experience will help us, and we will fight very hard in order to qualify for the Champions League group stage.”
Possibility of Donny Van de Beek playing in Thessaloniki amid Real Madrid interest: “He is with us and will play against PAOK in Greece. The same goes for the return leg.”
Captaincy issue: “Dusan Tadic is our captain this season. Daley Blind is the vice-captain.”