Ajax manager Erik ten Hag has revealed the club are still waiting on the fitness of Frenkie de Jong ahead of their Champions League quarter-final second leg with Juventus.
De Jong sustained the injury during an Eredivisie fixture against Excelsior on Saturday and, though he has travelled with the squad and was pictured in training on Monday at the Juventus Stadium, he remains a doubt for Tuesday night’s clash.
Ten Hag revealed this state of affairs in his pre-match press conference, as quoted by Football Italia, admitting he was considering potential replacements but would not rule out the talented youngster. The Dutchman declared: “We have a few options. [Noussair] Mazraoui on the left is an alternative, while [Daley] Blind and [Daley] Sinkgraven can also play there. We’ll see.
“We don’t know about De Jong, as it happened on Saturday, we’ll take it one day at a time and one hour at a time. We certainly won’t push him in training. The player has to decide. We cannot look inside his own body.
“If there is too big a risk, then we won’t push it. The player must decide, Frenkie is always a very positive guy. We’re positive about him playing, but we’ll have to wait and see.”
Turning attentions to their opponents in Turin, one journalist questioned whether the tactician would man-mark the competition’s greatest ever marksman, following his opening goal at the Johan Cruyff Arena, but Ten Hag confirmed: “We won’t put a man-marker on Cristiano Ronaldo, that’s something we never do.
“Juventus are the favourites, especially after the 1-1 draw in Amsterdam. We have to score here, we need to surpass our limits again, we know all that. We also showed that we can do it if we play well.
“Juventus are different to Real Madrid, we already discussed that before the first leg, as they have a different culture of football. Last week, we controlled the game, but were unable to score more than one goal. I expect Massimiliano Allegri to make some changes and defend deeper, but we must do better and surpass our limits.”
Allegri has fitness problems of his own, however, with both Giorgio Chiellini and Mario Mandzukic absent from the matchday squad, with veteran defender Andrea Barzagli returning in the former’s stead and teenager Nicolussi Caviglia replacing the Croatian.
Ten Hag continued: “Staying in Europe after the group stage and then knocking out Real Madrid was wonderful, but we want another unforgettable match tomorrow. We’ve got more confidence, a better mentality and the team always comes first.
“A team requires no extra motivation in a game like this. It’ll be tense and we need to be very concentrated.”