Football

Ajax Amsterdam wary of Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham: Joel Veltman

Veltman singles out Blues striker, who has scored nine times in 12 matches

Ajax Amsterdam defender Joel Veltman has said his side will be wary of 22-year-old Chelsea forward Tammy Abraham, who has had an excellent start to the season.

Aided by the Blues' transfer ban, Abraham returned from a fruitful spell where he plundered 26 goals for promoted Aston Villa last season to carry on his good form for his boyhood club Chelsea.

                GROUP H
AJAX AMSTERDAM CHELSEA

The fledgling England international has scored nine times in 12 matches for Frank Lampard's team and is joint-level in the English Premier League's scoring charts with Sergio Aguero.

Abraham scored his first Champions League goal in the 2-1 win over Lille earlier this month, but last season's Champions League semi-finalists Ajax should provide stiffer opposition.

One-club man Veltman told Dutch online portal NU: "There will be no underestimation. Chelsea remain Chelsea.

"They certainly have some good players. I mainly looked at their striker, the 22-year-old Tammy Abraham. He has been loaned out a few times, but is now doing very well."

Fellow defender Daley Blind added: "(Abraham) is a good striker. But we have to prepare not just for one striker. We attack as a team and defend as a team."

Dutch legend Marco van Basten, meanwhile, has cast doubt on Ajax repeating last season's feats, criticising Veltman and his former club's transfer policy after losing young stars Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt to Barcelona and Juventus respectively.

Following the Dutch champions' lacklustre 2-1 win at bottom-placed RKC Waalwijk last Saturday, two-time European Cup winner van Basten said on Fox Sports: "I don't think he (Veltman) is such a good defender... Tactically I don't find him impressive...

DEFENSIVELY VULNERABLE

"I keep saying that Ajax are very vulnerable defensively...

"Which is also strange. Ajax has bought Edson Alvarez and Lisandro Martinez for the defence, but they are both playing in midfield.

"(Midfielder) Razvan Marin was also brought in this summer, but he doesn't play. So, I don't think the transfer policy has been very successful."

Blind admitted his side were unusually poor against RKC but joked that they could have lulled Chelsea scouts into complacency with their performance.

Said the former Manchester United player: "I think it was our worst match in the last two years...

"But hopefully we pulled the wool over Chelsea's eyes. If we did that, then we achieved our mission."

Abraham, however, is under no illusions about the threat posed by the four-time European champions. He told Chelsea's website: "We know it's a massive game for us.

"Ajax are like us, they have a lot of young players who like to keep the ball and play good football. Off the ball as well, they like to win it back quickly.

"We know it's not going to be easy, but I believe in myself and my team that we can hopefully get a result there.

"We got ourselves back on track in Lille. It's not an easy place to go to, (but) we dug deep and got that win. Who says we can't do the same at Ajax?"

Belief is also radiating from Group H leaders Ajax, who breezed through their two European matches with 3-0 wins, and are unbeaten at the top of the Eredivisie.

Said coach Erik ten Hag: "(Chelsea are) an incredibly good team...

"But we have self-confidence and developed a playing style with which we can cause problems for any opponent.

"We aren't afraid of any team and can beat Chelsea...

"This team is a different team (from last season). Different also in tactics... We are playing a little different."

Football