Ajax v Rangers: Giovanni van Bronckhorst won’t rip up Champions League plan after Old Firm defeat

David Turnbull scores
Jon McLaughlin passed the ball straight to Celtic’s David Turnbull to score in Saturday’s 4-0 defeat
Venue: Johan Cruyff Arena, Amsterdam Date: Wednesday, 7 September Kick-off: 17:45 BST
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio Scotland Extra, live text commentary on the BBC Sport website & app

Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst hinted he will stick with goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin against Ajax despite criticism in the wake of Saturday’s bruising Old Firm defeat.

McLaughlin conceded four at Celtic Park, including from a poor pass out from the back for Celtic’s final goal.

But on the eve of his side’s Champions League opener in Amsterdam, the Ibrox boss says trusting his players is key.

“Many things went wrong,” said Van Bronckhorst.

“So I could change everything from Saturday and play with a different team tomorrow, different tactics. But I think you have to keep hold of your way of playing.

“You keep trusting your players and give them confidence because in the past we have bounced back from heavy defeats and that’s what we have to do tomorrow as well.”

He added: “I’ve spoken with Jon and I’ve spoken with the team about how we played, the way we conceded goals and how we need to improve, what went wrong.

“It’s a normal process. You cannot change every time you have a defeat. You cannot change everything because you have to stick to your beliefs and your way of playing.

“The execution we had on Saturday was below par – far below par. That’s what I want to see different tomorrow.”

While Saturday’s 4-0 reverse was far from ideal preparation for the club’s first game in the Champions League for 12 years, Van Bronckhorst has encouraged his players to “feel the emotions” of the defeat to drive them on in his homeland.

They face an Ajax team currently on five wins from five in the Eredivisie, and the Dutchman said: “If you have a heavy defeat like we did on Saturday it must feel really bad. You have to feel the emotions of a defeat to bounce back even harder.

“On Sunday, we had our first meeting after Celtic but also looking forward to Ajax. You have to keep going. As a player I played for some big teams in Europe, but also suffered some really big defeats.

“If you want to reach a higher level, if you want to keep developing you have to learn from your mistakes and your defeats.”

What they said

Ajax head coach Alfred Schreuder: “It is a new challenge for us. We have been analysing their games – they press high and try to play. You can see the hand of their coach on how they play.

“They are a very competitive team, they will try and press us in the beginning. We know Gio very well. You look at his style of coaching and I don’t think we have many big surprises coming. We are very well prepared.”

Rangers captain James Tavernier: “As a squad, win, draw, lose, we all look back on how we can improve. This was the same.

“We openly speak, and the staff and the boss put the points across. It’s something we always go through no matter what the scoreline and we know it’s something we need to put right.”

Team news

Striker Alfredo Morelos is in contention for Rangers after coming on as a substitute in Saturday’s Old Firm defeat. Tom Lawrence, John Souttar, Kemar Roofe, Filip Helander and Ianis Hagi remain unavailable.

Commentator’s notes

BBC Scotland’s Alasdair Lamont in Amsterdam

The best gauge of how good Ajax are comes from the team Rangers eliminated to get to this stage – PSV Eindhoven.

Ajax pipped PSV to the Eredivisie title by two points last season, but were beaten 5-3 at home by the same opponents in the season-opening Super Cup, albeit after Calvin Bassey had been sent off on his debut.

So it seems fair to assume there is not a great difference in quality, which should give travelling fans a degree of optimism.

There has been a fair amount of transfer activity at Ajax over the summer, most notably the eye-watering sales of Antony and Lisandro Martinez to Manchester United to reunite with their former boss Erik ten Hag.

Replacements have come in and history tells us that Ajax have a good track record in replacing departing superstars. In Bassey and Steven Bergwijn, for instance, they look to have invested wisely.

And a 100% record from their opening five league games suggests the transition to new coach Schreuder has been a pretty seamless one.

Steven Bergwijn
Steven Bergwijn has scored six goals in five games

Match stats

  • Ajax have won all four of their previous meetings with Rangers, winning both legs of the European Super Cup in January 1973, and both group stage meetings in the 1996-97 Champions League.
  • Rangers’ four defeats from four against Ajax is their worst 100% losing record in all European competition. Besiktas (6/6) are the only team that Ajax have a better 100% winning record against.
  • Rangers have won their last two games in the Netherlands, including a 1-0 win at PSV to qualify for the group stage. They had won just two of their previous nine before that (D2 L5).
  • Ajax won all six of Champions League group stage matches last term, having been knocked out at this stage in the two campaigns prior to that. They netted 20 goals in their group games last season, their most ever.
  • Rangers have won just 19% of their Champions League games (12/62), the second lowest win rate of any side to have played at least 50 games (Anderlecht, 17%). This is their first appearance since the 2010-11 campaign.
  • Rangers have progressed past the group stage in just one of their 10 previous attempts (2005-06). However, they’re unbeaten in their first group game in each of their last six (W4 D2).
  • During his spell as Feyenoord manager, Van Bronckhorst won just two of his 10 meetings with Ajax in all competitions (D2 L6), losing all four of his visits to the Johan Cruyff Arena as boss.
  • Van Bronckhorst has lost five of his six games Champions League games with Feyenoord in 2017-18, the exception being a 2-1 win against Napoli.
  • Excluding qualifiers, Rangers’ James Tavernier has scored seven goals in his last nine appearances in major European competition. He was the Ibrox club’s top scorer in their Europa League campaign last season.

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