AMSTERDAM: Ajax Amsterdam striker Antony was ruled out of Wednesday’s Champions League clash against Liverpool due to fitness issues, delivering a potential blow to the Dutch club's chances.
The 20-year-old Brazilian has made an instant impact since arriving at the club with three goals in five Dutch league games, but Ajax coach Erik ten Hag said he was “not fit” for the Group D clash without offering further details.
“But it should not affect us because we had already anticipated there would be games where we would not be able to use him, or where we would have to change the team around, and we have ensured that when one player falls away there is another to take his place,” he told Tuesday's pre-match news conference.
Ten Hag said Ajax would be up against what he termed “the best team in the world”.
“When you win the Champions League one year and then follow it up by winning the Premier League the next year, it shows you the are the best in the world.”
Not even the injury-enforced absence of Netherlands skipper Virgil van Dijk in the Liverpool defence or the fact the Reds have conceded 13 goal in their opening five matches of the new Premier League campaign could persuade him otherwise.
“Van Dijk’s absence won’t make a difference because they always play the same, their principles remain the same. There might be a change in the quality of personnel but not the overall quality of the team,” said Ten Hag.
As for the 13 goals conceded, Ten Hag added: “Seven of those came in an extraordinary game and I think four of the 13 have been unlucky deflections. I suppose it says that they are not infallible as they were for long periods last season.”
Asked about repeating the giant-killing 2018-2019 run in which Ajax eliminated Real Madrid and Juventus en route to the semi-finals, Ten Hag said: “That was a totally different setting and different phase of the season compared to now but we still have the same determination.”
(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Pritha Sarkar)