De Boer: Defending starts up front
Ajax coach Frank de Boer has called for patience from his side ahead of their UEFA Europa League match with Spartak Moscow.
De Boer believes his side's pressing style is the right way to approach the last-16 game, the only one between two teams who dropped out of this season's UEFA Champions League group stage. But he also urged caution and cited Barcelona's Champions League victory over Arsenal last night as the perfect example.
"It is a performance by the whole team," De Boer said. "Defending starts up front. The opponents should all feel pressure when we lose possession. "It is also important to ease off at the right moments. You do that, strange as it may sound, especially with the ball.
"Then you can look around the ball and players catch their breath before you begin a new attack. Barcelona demonstrate it perfectly, but sometimes we want to progress too quickly. That does not help our game."
Forward Mounir El Hamdaoui will miss both legs of the tie through suspension, but De Boer is hopeful that the team can again cope without him following their impressive 4-0 win over AZ Alkmaar at the weekend. "We saw last Sunday against AZ that it has no influence," he said. "Hopefully it will be that way again tomorrow against Spartak."
Ajax captain Maarten Stekelenburg has recovered from a groin problem to take his place in goal, while Vurnon Anita is also likely to start. Spartak are missing Argentina defender Nicolas Pareja due to a metatarsal injury suffered on international duty. However, they will be able to call on Brazilian striker Ari, who twice scored against Ajax during his time in the Eredivisie with AZ.
Spartak assistant coach Andrei Tikhonov, who along with De Boer and his assistant Danny Blind, featured as a player the last time the two sides met in the UEFA Cup quarter-final in 1998 said: "I think we have an even chance.
"We are better than we showed against Basel [in the previous round]. We have less injured players, Welliton and Ibson are back from suspension and we have now also played several competitive matches," he went on. "An away goal is precious, so I'm sure that the Dutch side will defend with great care. Since De Boer took over they have been very organised, especially in defence."