Ajax play down role as favourites for Benfica clash

Ajax Amsterdam coach Erik ten Hag said his team would not under-estimate opponents Benfica in Wednesday’s Champions League tie, even after getting through the group phase with full points.

Ajax play the Portuguese club in Lisbon in the first leg of their last-16 tie and while many see the Dutch side as favourites, their coach begged to differ.

“We have analysed them well and they are a strong opponent. They can take advantage of opponents’ mistakes,” Ten Hag told the pre-match news conference.

“Benfica can adapt very well to a good team and come out extra strong. They also have a lot of experience, especially their centre backs. (Nicolas) Otamendi and (Jan) Vertonghen, those are class players.

“We have to be good to create chances. On the ball, we have to make the right choices and be in the right place. We also have to be very sharp in the transition, because that is Benfica’s great strength.”

Ajax, who completed the group phase last November with six wins, were relishing returning to the European stage, said skipper Daley Blind.

“That’s exactly what we’re looking forward to. You do not need to recharge for matches in the Champions League. This is the level where we like to show ourselves. This is the stage that the whole world is watching.”


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