Ajax have become the latest Champions League club to be hit by coronavirus with captain Dusan Tadic and goalkeeper Andre Onana and 9 others testing positive ahead of their tie against FC Midtjylland, according to news reports
Ten Hag, at a press conference ahead of the Group D encounter, remained vague about the players and their Covid-19 status, and why they could not travel to play at the MCH Arena in the western Danish city of Herning.
“There are a number of players who did not get permission to enter Denmark to play here. They are allowed to play in the Netherlands but not in Denmark,” Ten Hag said at the live-streamed conference.
Pressed for a reason Ten Hag said: “I can’t say anything about the exact reasons and I’m also not going to comment on individuals because of privacy reasons.”
“All I know is that they did not get permission to enter Denmark,” he said.
Ten Hag then added “it has to do with testing. All I can say is the players affected by this are healthy in the sense that they don’t have any symptoms or complaints.”
Denmark enforces stricter anti-coronavirus rules than many other European countries.
It could be that some players who tested positive before still have residual traces of the virus showing up in blood tests, even though they have recovered completely, the RTL Nieuws private broadcaster said.
“I find this rather odd,” said Ten Hag.
“We are playing in a European competition. But European countries have different rules when it comes to corona,” he said.
“That’s strange and it is not fair play either,” added Ten Hag.
Dutch news reports say the missing players are now pinning their hopes on a second test, hoping that would come up negative.
“I am therefore hopeful that they will still be welcome on Tuesday,” Ten Hag said, adding “we are still working on it”.
Ajax broke their own 48-year Eredivisie record on Saturday when they hammered Venlo 13-0 in the biggest ever win in the history of the division.
Lassina Traore struck five times as the defending champions outdid Johan Cruyff’s Ajax, whose 12-1 win over Vitesse Arnhem has stood as the top flight’s record win since May 1972 — the season the Amsterdam club won the league title and the second of their four European Cups.
The 19-year-old’s goals were the first of the league campaign and put him one behind Feyenoord’s Steven Berghuis who leads the scoring charts.
He is also the first Ajax player to score five goals in an Eredivisie game since Marco van Basten in 1985.
The incredible win puts Erik ten Hag’s Ajax top of the division, two points ahead of PSV Eindhoven and three in front of third-placed Vitesse with both of those sides facing off at Sunday lunchtime in the sixth round of matches of the 2020/21 season.
Feyenoord and FC Twente, who take on FC Utrecht on Saturday, are four points further back.
Venlo are in mid-table on five points with a goal difference of -13 after conceding more than half of all the goals scored against them this season in just one match.
They have not won since the opening day of the season.
Jurgen Ekkelenkamp gave Ajax the lead after 13 minutes when he touched home Traore’s close-range header, and the Burkina Faso international turned from provider to finisher four minutes later when he headed home Antony’s curling cross.
Traore had the easiest of tap-ins to make it 3-0 in the 32nd minute, and Dusan Tadic ended the match as a contest a minute before the break when he span on the edge of the area and forced a low shot home.
Christian Kum was handed a straight red card six minutes after the break and after that the floodgates opened, with forward Traore completing his hat-trick two minutes later and Ajax scoring three more times in five minutes to take their tally to eight.
Antony laid on a headed goal that was an almost carbon copy of his first in the 65th minute and then substitute Klaas-Jan Huntelaar broke the double figures barrier from the spot with 16 minutes remaining before tapping home his second just two minutes later.
It only took another two minutes for demoralised Venlo to concede a 12th, Lisandro Martinez strolling towards the area and curling home a smooth finish, and Traore completed the destruction with three minutes remaining when he lashed home his fifth on the counter.
Barcelona have completed the signing of Ajax defender Sergino Dest, the clubs announced on Thursday.
The deal will include Barca paying 21 million euros for the 19-year-old, with a further five million euros in variables.
“The player will sign a contract for the next five seasons, through to the end of the 2024/25 season, with a buyout clause set at 400 million euros,” Barca added in a statement.
Dest will offer competition at right-back after Nelson Semedo was sold to Wolves. He made 35 appearances for Ajax last season, after making his debut in July.
The United States international becomes Barcelona’s fifth arrival of the transfer window, joining Miralem Pjanic, Trincao, Pedri and Matheus Fernandes in moving to Camp Nou.
The signing also continues the club’s attempts to refresh the squad.
“It’s a matter of changing things, having young players for the future of this Barca,” said Ronald Koeman on Wednesday, when asked about Dest.
Barcelona’s statement added: “Sergino Dest combines many excellent qualities needed in a full back: attacking when called for, solid defensively, unruffled in possession and creative with it.
“The defender has the ability to take players on and his pace is a virtue going forward and defending. Those qualities will be on display from now on in a Barca shirt, a challenge for a fearless young full-back.”
Ajax attacking midfielder Hakim Ziyech is set to move to Chelsea in the summer after the clubs agreed to a deal in principle, a Dutch newspaper reported Wednesday.
The daily tabloid De Telegraaf said the Amsterdam powerhouse and the London club had agreed on a fee believed to be around 45 million euros ($50 million) for the 26-year-old Dutch-born Moroccan.
“Ajax’s management reached an oral agreement over the past 24 hours with the top London club for the Moroccan attacker to make the switch in the summer,” the newspaper said.
Chelsea manager Frank Lampard believed Ziyech “is a top player and such an essential reinforcement to his 11 that he gave the club instructions to have a deal done before the summer,” De Telegraaf said.
Clubs can agree and sign transfers outside the English Premier League’s January transfer window, but players may not be registered with new clubs until it opens again in the summer.
Ajax declined to comment on the report.
“As always we can’t comment on rumours. Any news will be reported through the official Ajax channels,” an Ajax spokesman told AFP.
Ajax is known for selling home-grown talent to richer European clubs. After last season, they sold Matthijs de Ligt to Juventus and Frenkie de Jong to Barcelona.
De Telegraaf said the chance to play Champions League football at Chelsea was “an important condition” for Ziyech, who has scored a total of 47 goals in 157 appearances for Ajax.
Ajax reached the semi-final of the competition last year, but this season they were eliminated in the group stage, in part because they lost at home to Chelsea and later threw away a three-goal lead at Stamford Bridge.
The top two finishers in the Dutch league qualify each year and Ajax are top, 10 points clear of third-place Willem II.
Chelsea are fourth in the Premier League, which would earn a Champions League spot, but their poor form has allowed a chasing pack of five clubs to close in.
They are still in this season’s Champions League and could qualify for next season by winning it.
Until Ziyech formally signs a contract “the door was still slightly ajar for other top clubs”, but Ajax did not want a deal with any other club, De Telegraaf said.
Ziyech joined Ajax in 2016 from fellow Eredivisie club FC Twente for a fee of 11 million euros.
Ajax’s hopes of another fairytale run in the Champions League were dashed on Tuesday as a 1-0 defeat at home to Valencia sent them crashing out and the Spaniards through to the last 16.
Rodrigo Moreno’s 24th-minute strike proved the winner at the Johan Cruyff Arena and enough to flip the top three in Group H, with Valencia advancing in first place along with Chelsea, who beat bottom club Lille 2-1.
Ajax were arguably the story of the competition last season when their youthful team went all the way to the semi-finals but there will be no repeat this year.
Gabriel Paulista was sent off in injury-time but even against 10 men, they could not find the equaliser they needed.
Instead, Valencia not only progress but have earned themselves the best chance of a kind draw when the knock-out stage is decided in Nyon on December 16.
It seemed unlikely after they missed a series of golden opportunities to beat Chelsea earlier this month but a 2-2 draw still left them with a chance, even if the odds were not in their favour.
They knew they either had to beat Ajax, against whom they had lost 3-0 at home in October, or at least match the result of Chelsea, who always seemed likely to win against Lille at Stamford Bridge.
Ajax, meanwhile, began the night two points clear at the top of the group and needed only a draw to go through.
Valencia coach Albert Celades, who made his La Liga debut as a player under Cruyff, was now in the dugout of the stadium named after the iconic Dutchman and this will be a major boost for his side, who are eighth in La Liga after a rocky start to the season on and off the pitch.
Ajax sit three points clear at the top of the Eredivisie but last year’s heroics in the Champions League, and their heartbreaking defeat to Tottenham, meant they had European ambitions too.
Rodrigo headed wide from a corner early on but after a frantic start, the game settled, with Ajax dominating possession and Valencia trying to counter-attack.
Against the run of play, Valencia took the lead as Rodrigo’s bending run in behind was picked out by a Ferran Torres pass. Rodrigo controlled with his left and fired the ball with his right into the roof of the net.
Ajax had to wait until the end of the half for their best chance as Donny van de Beek latched onto Hakim Ziyech’s pass and lifted the ball over Jaume Domenech, only for Jose Gaya to make a brilliant clearance off the line.
Rodrigo might have made it two at the other end but it was Ajax that were pushing for an equaliser after the restart as Valencia retreated.
Ziyech should have levelled but fluffed his finish at the near post before 20-year-old Noa Lang hooked over from inside the box.
Lille pulled a goal back away at Chelsea to give Ajax further hope and they were almost gifted an equaliser by Valencia’s Daniel Wass, who chesting the ball away from his own goalkeeper.
Ziyech went close with a shot towards the near post and, three minutes into injury-time, Gabriel was sent off for thrusting his head into Dusan Tadic.
It left Valencia to defend two minutes, and a corner, with 10 men but Ajax could not find a way through.
Chelsea fought back from 4-1 down to salvage a 4-4 draw against nine-man Ajax as a memorable night at Stamford Bridge left both sides with work to do to reach the last 16 of the Champions League.
Frank Lampard’s men seemed destined for a second straight home defeat in Europe as first-half own goals from Tammy Abraham and Kepa Arrizabalaga added to Quincy Promes’ header and predatory finish from Donny Van der Beek to hand the Dutch champions a 4-1 lead.
However, after Cesar Azpilicueta brought Chelsea back into the game at 4-2, the visitors were reduced to nine men by second yellow cards for Daley Blind and Joel Veltman in the move that led to the hosts being awarded their second penalty of the night.
Jorginho had briefly brought Chelsea level at 1-1 from the spot in the first half and converted once more.
Reece James then levelled for the Blues and only VAR denied Chelsea a famous victory when Azpilicueta’s strike was ruled out for a handball by Abraham.
Both sides are now locked on seven points at top of Group H with Valencia, who were 4-1 winners over Lille.
Chelsea had won their previous seven Premier and Champions League games with Lampard’s young side earning rave reviews for their attacking intent.
The former England international hailed his side’s 1-0 victory in Amsterdam two weeks ago as the best of his Chelsea tenure to date for the way they added a defensive resolve to their attacking verve.
Chelsea Defensive Lapses
Two weeks on, they were easily undone from crosses as Ajax went in front inside two minutes when Promes’ free-kick flicked off Abraham and into his own net.
Chelsea responded immediately as Christian Pulisic’s promising form of recent weeks continued with a powerful run into the box before he was brought down by Veltman.
Jorginho coolly slotted home the resulting spot-kick and Chelsea had the ball in the net again moments later but Abraham was rightly flagged offside.
Just as Chelsea were beginning to wrestle control, Ajax retook the lead with a wicked cross from Hakim Ziyech picking out Promes to head home.
Ziyech was the creator once more 10 minutes before half-time when his sensational free-kick from near the right touchline came back off the post and rebounded in off goalkeeper Arrizabalaga’s face.
Chelsea started the second half strongly, but any hope of a comeback appeared to have gone when Van de Beek, who scored a number of vital goals on Ajax’s run to the last four last season, rifled home another Ziyech assist.
To their credit, Chelsea never gave up even after an injury to Mason Mount threatened to compound a miserable night.
Azpilicueta sparked the fightback by prodding in at the back post after Abraham had flicked Pulisic’s low cross goalwards.
Then a minute of madness turned the game on its head 20 minutes from time as Ajax had Blind and Veltman sent-off and conceded a second penalty.
Blind was shown a second yellow card for bringing down Abraham and, as the advantage was played, Veltman handled Callum Hudson-Odoi’s shot inside his own box and was also booked for the second time.
Jorginho calmly sent Andre Onana the wrong way from the spot to make it 3-4.
Three minutes later, Lampard’s men were level when James smashed home after Kurt Zouma’s header came off the bar.
Azpilicueta thought he had completed the comeback only for his second goal of the night to be ruled out for a handball by Abraham after a VAR review.
Hudson-Odoi fired inches wide and Onana made a brilliant save to deny Michy Batshuayi a winner in a frantic finale, but Ajax held out for what in the end was a welcome point after an eight-goal thriller.
Victory in Amsterdam puts Chelsea level with last season’s Champions League semi-finalists on six points at the top of Group H and back on track to make the last 16 after a home defeat to Valencia on matchday one.
“It was very important after losing the first game against Valencia,” said Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta.
“We showed a great ability to control the game after the first 15-20 minutes.
“We had a lot of chances to win the game, we were brave, we pressed high and very happy to get a late goal from Michy.”
Batshuayi has had to be patient for his chance to shine under Lampard with Tammy Abraham’s fine form keeping the Belgian international on the sidelines.
Lampard introduced Batshuayi ahead of French international Olivier Giroud for the final 20 minutes and he had the desired effect by smashing in off the underside of the bar from Pulisic’s cut-back.
“The other two (Giroud and Batshuayi) stay patient, work hard, support the group and have talent. He’s waited for his moment and fully deserved it,” added Lampard.
Chelsea showed that their young side were ready for the European stage on Wednesday after Michy Batshuayi’s late winner fired them to a 1-0 Champions League win at Ajax that puts them square in the fight for the knockout stages.
Substitute Batshuayi struck in the 86th minute to seal a hugely impressive win in Amsterdam that puts Chelsea level on six points with last year’s semi-finalists at the top of Group H.
Valencia will have the chance to draw alongside their group rivals with a win at Lille later on Wednesday.
“It’s feels huge, which always scares me because there’s a lot to do. We’re entitled to be excited about the way we played tonight,” Lampard told reporters.
“That’s the blueprint. No excuses from now to dip from that.”
Frank Lampard’s side had to ride their luck in the Johan Cruyff Arena, with Quincy Promes’ first half tap-in ruled out for the tightest of offsides and Edson Alvarez hitting the post with a diving header near the hour mark.
However, a youthful Chelsea showed they could compete with Europe’s top sides despite losing Eden Hazard in the summer, going toe-to-toe with one of the continent’s most dynamic attacking teams in a tight contest before winning their sixth straight match in all competitions.
They face Ajax at Stamford Bridge in the next round of games in a clash that on Wednesday’s evidence looks to be the key in deciding who tops the group.
“They’re still babies in terms of Champions League minutes… football will continue to give you tests all the time to I don’t want to say they’re there or ‘this is it’,” added Lampard.
“But I thought the balance of young players that are learning quickly and the experienced players who they rely on to set examples feels good.”
Stifled Ajax curse luck
In a match littered with sloppy passing in the final third, it was another substitute in Christian Pulisic who provided a moment of quality to slot a low cross across the area that Batshuyai got to first.
The Belgian’s finish squeezed in off the crossbar to send Chelsea’s players and fans wild and provide Ajax with their first defeat of a season that had seen them continue with the form that bewitched Europe last season.
Chelsea restricted Ajax’s talented attacking side, led by Dusan Tadic and Hakim Ziyech, to just two shots on target, while academy graduates Callum Hudson-Odoi, Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham initially led the charge at the other end.
Lampard spoke very highly of Hudson-Odoi on Tuesday and the winger was a threat on the left, even though the youngster was wasteful when he got the ball.
The 18-year-old gave the ball away in attacking positions a number of times in the first half and fired a very presentable chance wide in the 27th minute when a Marcos Alonso cross dropped to him in the area.
The only shot on target in the opening period came from Mount, who played a neat one-two with Hudson-Odoi before forcing Andre Onana into a smart save at his near post.
However it was Promes who came closest to opening the scoring when he pounced on Hakim Ziyech’s deflected shot to tap home, only to see the goal ruled out as he celebrated with his teammates and supporters.
The home fans could hardly believe their luck when Alvarez’s header bounced off the upright after the break, as Chelsea’s defence briefly wobbled before regaining composure and becoming the second team this season to shut out flamboyant Ajax.
Lampard sent on Pulisic and Batshuayi for Willian and Abraham and the move almost paid off immediately, the striker finding himself completely free in the box in the 73rd minute only to lash his finish way over the bar.
However he soon had his winner thanks to American Pulisic, himself just 21, who has been left out of the limelight this season but made an impact when he laid on his attacking partner for a huge winner.
Erik ten Hag insisted on Tuesday that his Ajax side have put last season’s Champions League heartbreak behind them as they prepare to take their blistering early-season form into an intriguing clash with Chelsea’s young guns.
The Dutch champions had a place in last season’s final snatched away from them with seconds to go by Tottenham Hotspur and lost star players Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt in the summer but it hasn’t put a stop to their re-emergence as a European force.
Ajax lead Group H after winning both their opening Champions League matches 3-0, against Lille and Valencia. They now go into a double-header with Chelsea with hopes they can repeat last season’s thrilling run, which saw them dump out Real Madrid and Juventus before falling to Spurs in the last four.
“We have to forget that (last season) now because we live in the future. We live now. And now we have to perform,” Ten Hag told reporters ahead of Wednesday’s match at the Johan Cruyff Arena.
Ten Hag’s side look to have brushed off last year’s disappointment, as they are unbeaten in all competitions and top of the Eredivisie averaging more than three goals a game.
“Last year was last year, we’re building a new team … we start the season very well and now we have to step up and become game-to-game better,” added Ten Hag.
Standing in his side’s way in the next two group games is a rapidly developing Chelsea team that is packed with home-grown talent and on a run of five straight wins in all competitions.
Frank Lampard has reinvigorated a Blues side that lost Eden Hazard in the summer with players like Fikayo Tomori and Tammy Abraham, with Callum Hudson-Odoi back in the mix after a long-term ankle injury.
“When I see them they want to play football, they want to play in the opponents’ half, they want to press high and they want to stay in the opponents’ half. That’s pretty similar to Ajax,” said Ten Hag.
“I think they want to go as far as we did, but of course we want to avoid that.”
Abraham has starred with eight goals in nine league appearances and got the opener in Chelsea’s 2-1 win at Lille, and is set to start at one of the homes of youth development.
“He’s doing very well at the moment, he’s a good striker,” said Ajax defender Daley Blind, a former Manchester United player.
“I’ll prepare myself as I always do, you have to defend not just against a striker but a whole team, and we attack as a team and defend like a team.”
Chelsea’s young guns will test their run of form at one of the homes of youth development on Wednesday as they attempt to stop an Ajax team on course to replicate last season’s thrilling Champions League run.
The Blues are on a five-match winning streak in all-competitions after beating Newcastle United 1-0 at the weekend but come up against the Group H leaders in Amsterdam
Ajax are averaging over three goals a game at home and abroad and are hungry for European success after semi-final heartache last season.
Fikayo Tomori, Ross Barkley, Mason Mount, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Tammy Abraham all started Saturday’s win at Stamford Bridge, the first time since 2013 five English players made the London club’s starting XI.
They second on three points in Group H after a wobbly opening two games in the Champions League, with a pair of matches coming up against on-fire Ajax that could decide their European destiny.
“These two games against Ajax are really big because they’re such a strong team … The movement of the team and the way they play football will be a big test for us,” coach Frank Lampard told the Chelsea website on Monday.
Abraham has stolen the headlines with eight goals in nine league appearances and the opener in Chelsea’s 2-1 win in Lille, and Lampard called the 22-year-old a “sponge” for his capacity to learn.
“He wants to listen, to get better, to score more goals, improve his game and help his team-mates. He’s got the beautiful base of that in terms of coaching,” added Lampard.
However four of those Saturday starters are academy products who have flourished under new boss Lampard, who has dealt with the loss of Eden Hazard and a UEFA-imposed transfer ban by pushing the Premier League club’s youth products to centre stage.
Hudson-Odoi, who recently returned from a long-term ankle injury, was a constant menace with his bursts down the flank and it was the 18-year-old who teed up Marcos Alonso for the winning goal from a match in which Chelsea had 16 shots at goal and 72 per cent possession.
Ajax gunning for glory
It was also just the second time this season that Chelsea kept a clean sheet, and they did it without the injured Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger, with 21-year-old Tomori proving an increasingly solid presence at the back.
Rudiger and Christensen are two of a string of Chelsea absentees which includes midfield lynchpin N’Golo Kante and another academy product Ruben Loftus-Cheek, with Barkley and Cesar Azpilicueta also doubts for Ajax.
Ajax’s remarkable form has led to rumours that coach Erik ten Hag is a potential Bayern Munich target, rumours that the 49-year-old refused to play down on Monday as Nico Kovac comes under fire in Germany.
Despite losing midfield dynamo Frenkie De Jong to Barcelona and defensive rock Matthijs de Ligt to Juventus, they are top of the Eredivisie and unbeaten after scoring 31 times in their opening 10 games, three points ahead of PSV Eindhoven and Vitesse Arnhem.
In fact Erik ten Hag’s side have hardly felt the effects of their departures, as the rising stars of Dutch football struggle to impose themselves in new countries.
They are also top of Group H after beating both Lille and Valencia 3-0 with the same brand of thrilling football that captured Europe’s imaginations last season.
However, although they reemerged as a European force thanks to their academy talent, their star turns this campaign are all outside discoveries, with Hakim Ziyech, David Neres and Dusan Tadic all in fine form and new signing Quincy Promes causing havoc from midfield.
The 26-year-old Ziyech’s incredible strike sent Ajax on their way at the Mestalla in their last Champions League match, while Promes, 27, scored in both Group matches and six times in the league.
Even 36-year-old Klaas-Jan Huntelaar is on fire, with five league goals in as many appearances, as they hunt their first European trophy in 25 years.