Jol focused on task ahead


PARIS, July 26- Barely a week after being denied a move to Fulham, Ajax coach Martin Jol must prepare his team to face Greek side PAOK Salonika in the Champions League third qualifying round on Wednesday.Jol guided four-time European champions Ajax to a second-place finish behind FC Twente in the Dutch Eredivisie last season but grew frustrated this summer at what he saw as the club’s reluctance to hold onto their best players.

It was in this state of mind that he reacted favourably to the approach from Fulham, but having being refused permission to leave the Amsterdam Arena he has vowed to put the matter behind him.

"It took a long time, which was probably not good for this club, because it’s a big club with one and a half million fans in Holland," he said.

"I had to tell them (Fulham) I had to stay. All the problems, going to court, I didn’t want that, because Ajax is too big to be put through that misery."

Jol says Ajax must take control of the tie in Wednesday’s first-leg match, as he is wary of the role the Greek club’s "fanatical fans" could play if Ajax have to travel to Thessalonika in need of a positive result.

Perhaps the most intriguing tie of the third qualifying round pitches Scottish giants Celtic against Champions League debutants Sporting Braga, who finished second to Benfica in last season’s Portuguese Liga.

Former player Neil Lennon is embarking on his first full campaign as Celtic coach and says he may opt for the counter-attacking 4-5-1 formation that he deployed in the 3-1 friendly defeat by Manchester United in Toronto on July 17.

"We’ve looked at a few variations on it. With (Marc-Antoine) Fortune, (Shaun) Maloney, (Aiden) McGeady and young Jamie Forrest we have lots of pace," Lennon told the Daily Record.

"Fortune played the striker’s role really well against United and we had good midfield players backing him up like (Scott) Brown, Marc Crosas and (Joe) Ledley."

Tuesday’s matches see Norwegian champions Rosenborg travel to Swedish counterparts AIK, while Ukrainian heavyweights Dynamo Kiev host Belgian outfit Gent and Romanians Unirea Urziceni tackle Zenit St Petersburg of Russia.

Welsh minnows The New Saints’ reward for upsetting Irish champions Bohemians in the second qualifying round is a lucrative date with Belgian champions Anderlecht.

The second legs take place on August 3 and 4, with the victors qualifying for the play-off round.