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Football: JOOS' AJAX WARNING.

CELTIC defender Joos Valgaeren has warned his Parkhead team mates to ignore Ajax's poor league position last season.

The Dutch masters scraped into the Champions League on the final day of the season after piping Valgaeren's former side Roda for third place.

Ajax finished a massive 22 points behind champions PSV Eindhoven but Valgaeren is expecting the four times European Cup winners to be on top of their form when the sides meet on August 8.

Valgaeren said: "They might have finished third in their championship but that was quite impressive after the start they had.

"They had a new squad and a new team coming together at the start of the season, but by the end they were playing good football and getting good results.

"For most of the season it looked like my old team Roda had both feet in the Champions League but Ajax came along to beat them on the last day.

"We all know about the Ajax tradition of playing total football and they're back to playing that way.

"I think everybody at Celtic is happy with the draw. There are better squads and bigger names we could have been drawn against than Ajax, but we know it will still be very difficult."

The prize for the winners is a pounds 10m jackpot with Valgaeren well aware that the stakes have never been so high.

Valgaeren has risen to every challenge put before him since joining Celtic twelve months ago for pounds 2.8m and is relishing a do or die Champions League decider.

He said: "In club football this will be one of the biggest games I have ever played in.

"Last season I played in a couple of cup finals but the two games with Ajax are more important."

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 22, 2001
Words:300
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