AMSTERDAM: Ajax Amsterdam will have to cope without influential midfielder Donny van de Beek and flying fullback Noussair Mazraoui for Tuesday’s Champions League game at home to Lille, coach Erik ten Hag said on Monday.
Van de Beek is struggling with a thigh injury while Mazraoui returned from playing in Olympic Games qualifiers for Morocco last week with a knee complaint.
“They are training. But I don’t think they’ll play,” said Ten Hag.
Ajax again had to qualify through the preliminary phase of Europe's elite club competition this season, beating Austrian and Cypriot opposition to take their place in Group H where they also face Chelsea and Valencia who meet in London on Tuesday.
“We are happy to be in the group phase and in a challenging group,” said Ten Hag, whose youthful side were the surprise package of last season’s competition as they reached the semi-finals, knocking out Juventus and Real Madrid along the way.
“It’s too early now to talk about whether we can do that again. We are just beginning the group phase and the priority is to go for the win tomorrow,” the Ajax coach added at Monday’s pre-match news conference.
“And if we don’t get a win, we must get some kind of result because it’s going to be a closely contested group. We must beware not to be naive about the task at hand.
“We want to dictate the possession against Lille but I’m not sure whether that will be possible. They are a good team, they beat Paris St Germain 5-1 last season,” he said of the Ligue 1 runners-up.
“We are not the favourites but we are convinced of our ability. In our group Chelsea are probably the team that sticks out more than the others.”
(Reporting by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Ken Ferris)