On Monday afternoon, Borussia Dortmund will make the trip to Amsterdam on the team bus. Between a team meeting, training and departure, head coach Marco Rose and midfielder Julian Brandt sat down to answer journalists' questions at the international press conference. They are looking forward to what promises to be an exciting evening of football in the Johan Cruyff Arena.
''It's a game that everyone is looking forward to.'' Julian Brandt is excited about the opposition (''Ajax have always remained true to their principles of playing attractive football. Their youth set-up is one of the best in Europe. The way they are playing in the Champions League at the moment is fantastic,'') and is looking forward to playing in front of ''football-crazy Dutch people''. A crowd of 55,000 will be in attendance at the Johan Cruyff Arena, including 2,700 BVB fans.
Marco Rose admires ''the club's philosophy: always playing 4-3-3 all the way up from the youth sides to the first team. They are a lot of fun to watch. We know it's a well-oiled machine that awaits us. It's going to be a big challenge for us. It's one we're happy to take on, and we want to take points home with us. We want to ask a lot of Ajax.''
The respect is huge, as are the team's own ambitions. Borussia Dortmund are the first and to-date only German club to win away to Ajax (2012) and will be hoping to take something from Tuesday evening's match (kick-off 21:00 CET, live on Amazon Prime and BVB-Netradio). ''We'll need to play to the absolute best of our abilities if we want to put in a good performance and decide the game in our favour,'' said Brandt.
Ajax's are equally strong in both attack and defence. With the exception of the Dutch Supercup (a 4-0 loss to PSV Eindhoven), the Amsterdam club have conceded just two goals across all competitions. ''Ajax are a class apart in the league,'' says Rose: ''We'll have to look for and find solutions, be really switched on and pro-active. Their high press means they leave space in behind the defence. We won't have much time when we have the ball. We'll have to make the most of this time and get ourselves into the right positions. He's told his team to keep a cool head and not get carried away in what promises to be an electric atmosphere: ''We're up for a shootout. But we can't let it get out of control.'' Finding the right balance will be the most important thing: ''We need phases of possession to find composure in our play.''
The fact that not every player was in attendance at this morning's training session was of no significance. ''It's two days since our last game, so we're working on a very individualised level,'' explained Rose, alluding to ''a couple of players who were better off doing something in the gym instead of out on the training pitch. We need to take care to be fresh tomorrow evening. We haven't had any new injuries. Quite the opposite: we can welcome Daxo (Dan-Axel Zagadou) back into the squad for the first time. Steffen Tigges is also with us again.'' It's likely that there will be no changes to the starting line-up.
Michael Zorc said to kicker magazine: ''Two very good teams are going head-to-head, and we hope that we can be more dominant and prevail in the end.'' The night bus home to Dortmund on Tuesday evening will no doubt be more comfortable with three points in the bag. After all, it would put the Black & Yellows within touching distance of the knock-out stage.