Schreuder feeling the pressure as Ajax hunt for European salvation
Since Ajax’s 4-0 win over Rangers on Matchday 1, their Champions League campaign has delivered four successive defeats.
For a club accustomed to impressive runs in Europe’s elite competition in recent years, the Europa League is now likely to hand the Eredivisie giants a second crack at success on the continent this term.
It is in stark contrast to their domestic form, with the Dutch champions sitting top of the Eredivisie with nine victories from 11 games.
Their European woes have left boss Alfred Schreuder under pressure — but he remains confident ahead of tonight's showdown with Rangers at Ibrox.
He said: "We have analysed the home match against Rangers. We were in good form that day and it went well.
"We have also had a couple of matches against teams that were too mighty for us and we have been able to measure ourselves against other teams in different phases.
"I do enjoy travelling and the stadium is fantastic. You feel like a little boy when you come to places like Ibrox.
"But we haven’t done any sightseeing as we haven’t come here for that, we have come here to win the match.
"When you see the group after the draw was made we believed we could finish in top two. But the reality is that it didn’t work out like we hoped.
"It is important for us to reach the Europa League and if we do that then we have to look to go far in that competition."
Not at their level
It has been an even more disappointing European campaign for Rangers, who have lost all five of their group games, conceding 19 and scoring just once.
Even qualification to the Europa League — the competition they reached the final of last season — looks unlikely, with the Gers needing to win by a five-goal margin tonight to leapfrog Ajax into third place in Group A.
And manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst has suggested his side are not even at Ajax's level yet, let alone that of Napoli and Liverpool whose qualification to the knockout phase is already wrapped up.
The 47-year-old Dutchman, who saw his side lose 4-0 to the visitors in September, said: "Compete with Ajax? A team that has almost played the final and for five or six years in a row have been doing well in Europe.
"We have been doing well in Europe the last three years but we are still not at the same level as Ajax.
"We are developing and that’s the way it is. It is the way the differences are in Europe at the moment.
"If you see Ajax, the players overall are from a higher level, their budget is higher.
"They bought players for £100million. They bought a not bad defender [Calvin Bassey] from us.
"We cannot compare ourselves to Ajax but we can compete with them on the day, especially at home at Ibrox."
There will be mixed emotions tonight for Ajax defender Bassey, who returns to Ibrox for the first time since departing Rangers for the Netherlands for £23m in the summer.
The Nigeria international, 22, said: "I know a lot of people here and it will be nice to see them after the game because at the end of the day I’ve come here to do a job.
"I’ve got to stay focused and not focus on all the distractions. I’ll say hello to everyone but save the conversations for after the game and focus on the match.
"He [Van Bronckhorst] gave me an opportunity when he came [to Rangers]. He taught me a lot and helped me get confidence and play. He has been very important to my career.
"I think the playing styles are different. The way we play is evident to see. We are more fluid and Ajax is a possession-based team with exciting football.
"That is what we try to give in every single game. You should be able to see the difference.
"The players have top quality. I am not saying the Rangers players don’t, they have quality as well. It is a good step."
Did you know?
Rangers have lost all five of their games in the Champions League this season. No Scottish side have ever been beaten six times within a single campaign in the European Cup or Champions League.
The Gers have lost all five of their matches against Ajax in European competition — more than against any other side.
Since the start of last season, Steven Berghuis has been directly involved in seven goals in 13 appearances for Ajax in the Champions League — the most of any current player.
Fourteen different players have attempted at least one shot for Van Bronckhorst’s men in the Champions League this season but only Scott Arfield has found the net.
Among players to have attempted at least 10 take-ons in the Champions League this season, Ajax’s Mohammed Kudus has the highest success rate.