Champions League

Ajax join Champions League scrap

2015-07-29 09:46
Ajax Amsterdam (File)

Amsterdam - Four-times European champions Ajax Amsterdam find themselves among the pre-qualifiers for the Champions League this year as Dutch football pays the price for its declining record in continental competition.

Ajax are away at Rapid Vienna on Wednesday in the first leg of the third qualifying round tie - the only former champion among 13 teams entering the competition at that stage.

After four successive Dutch championship successes from 2011 to 2014, Ajax finished second last season but have been forced into early Champions League qualification because the UEFA coefficient for the Netherlands has dropped starkly in recent years.

Only champions PSV Eindhoven gain automatic entry to the league phase despite the Netherlands achieving six European Cup or Champions League wins, shared among three clubs.

Only Spanish, Italian, English and German clubs have won more silverware in European club competition, yet in two years' time the Dutch coefficient could fall outside the top 12, which would mean even the country's league champions would be forced to play in the early rounds.

It is a vicious circle for Dutch clubs, who are having to join the competition so early in the season because of their poor past performance in Europe.

"They are playing in July already their most important game of the season," PSV director Toon Gerbrants said.

"The fewer points our clubs collect for the UEFA coefficient, the earlier we have to enter the European competitions and the more difficult it becomes to get out of the situation," he told the Algemeen Dagblad newspaper on Tuesday.

UEFA's coefficient, which determines how many clubs each country can enter and at which stage of the competition, is calculated by performance over the five preceding seasons.

"We see it as a big problem," added Jelle Goes, the technical manager of the Dutch football association (KNVB).

"International matches at a high level are essential for players and coaches. Should Dutch players have fewer international assignments, that has an impact on the national team," he added.

Wednesday's match in Vienna's Ernst Happel Stadium comes 20 years after Ajax won the Champions League at the same venue - their most recent success in the competition.

Current coach Frank de Boer, part of Louis van Gaal's winning side against AC Milan two decades ago, was pleased with the chance to go back to Austria.

"It could have been a much tougher draw, although we must still see at what level Rapid Vienna are. On paper we'll be favourites," he said.

 

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Fixtures
Tuesday, 26 November 2019
Lokomotiv Moscow v Bayer Leverkusen, Lokomotiv Stadium 19:55
Galatasaray v Club Brugge, Turk Telekom Arena 19:55
Juventus v Atletico Madrid, Allianz Stadium 22:00
Atalanta v Dinamo Zagreb, Atleti Azzurri d'Italia 22:00
Manchester City v Shakhtar Donetsk, Etihad Stadium 22:00
Real Madrid v Paris SG, Santiago Bernabeu 22:00
Red Star Belgrade v Bayern Munchen, Stadion Rajko Mitic 22:00
Tottenham Hotspur v Olympiacos, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium 22:00
Wednesday, 27 November 2019
Valencia v Chelsea, Mestalla 19:55
Zenit St. Petersburg v Lyon, Saint Petersburg Stadium 19:55
Liverpool v Napoli, Anfield 22:00
Barcelona v Borussia Dortmund, Camp Nou 22:00
Slavia Prague v Inter Milan, Eden Arena 22:00
Genk v Red Bull Salzburg, Luminus Arena 22:00
RB Leipzig v Benfica, Red Bull Arena 22:00
Lille v Ajax, Stade Pierre-Mauroy 22:00
Tuesday, 10 December 2019
Red Bull Salzburg v Liverpool, Red Bull Arena 19:55
Napoli v Genk, San Paolo 19:55
Ajax v Valencia, Amsterdam ArenA 22:00
Benfica v Zenit St. Petersburg, da Luz 22:00
Lyon v RB Leipzig, Groupama Stadium 22:00
Inter Milan v Barcelona, San Siro 22:00
Borussia Dortmund v Slavia Prague, Signal Iduna Park 22:00
Chelsea v Lille, Stamford Bridge 22:00
Wednesday, 11 December 2019
Dinamo Zagreb v Manchester City, Maksimir Stadium 19:55
Shakhtar Donetsk v Atalanta, Metalist Stadium 19:55
Bayern Munchen v Tottenham Hotspur, Allianz Arena 22:00
Bayer Leverkusen v Juventus, BayArena 22:00
Club Brugge v Real Madrid, Jan Breydel Stadion 22:00
Olympiacos v Red Star Belgrade, Karaiskakis Stadium 22:00
Paris SG v Galatasaray, Parc des Princes 22:00
Atletico Madrid v Lokomotiv Moscow, Wanda Metropolitano 22:00
Saturday, 30 May 2020
TBA v TBA, Ataturk Olympic Stadium 02:00
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