Ajax welcome SL Benfica to Amsterdam on Tuesday for the second leg of their UEFA Champions League round of 16 clash (catch the action on Paramount+) with the aggregate score poised at 2-2 after an entertaining opening leg at Estadio Da Luz in Lisbon which saw the prolific Sebastien Haller score at both ends.
Brian Brobbey was unavailable for the Portuguese trip due to injury, but the 20-year-old made his return to action over the weekend and is hopeful of being able to feature at Johan Cruyff Arena this week after returning to the Dutch giants on loan from RB Leizpig this past January.
"Benfica are a very tough opponent, but they were at home first," Brobbey told CBS Sports exclusively ahead of his return to fitness. "We are at home in front of a full stadium for the second which will be tough for them. We have a very good group. Everybody has their own qualities, and we have a great coach as well as his staff. It is good to have some experienced players. They push us young guys to be at their level and expect a lot of us."
Brobbey opted to leave Ajax on a free transfer to join Leipzig, but his German adventure is on pause after he returned to the Netherlands where he can continue to learn from the likes of captain Dusan Tadic, star striker Sebastien Haller, the experienced Daley Blind, and the influential Andre Onana.
"Guys like Daley and Andre help a lot and talk with you which passes on their experience," he said. "Dusan is a great captain and a funny guy. I can talk with him, and he is a fantastic player. After training, he does many things for himself, and we can learn from that. Sebastien scores many, many goals which are so important for us. I watch and learn from him as he is a great striker."
Brobbey admitted that leaving Ajax was a tough decision and that breaking into the first team after more than a decade in the academy still ranks as one of his proudest moments after answering Erik Ten Hag's call at the start of the year.
"It was a great moment of my career as I have been here since I was 12 and just a kid," Brobbey told CBS exclusively. "It was a proud moment for me to finally join the first team squad. It was a very hard decision to leave my family and because I had been here for so long. It was a tough decision, but I discussed it with my agent, brothers, and parents before my final decision. The coach texted me that he needed me, and I told him that I would come. That was it, done, and I was back here again."
Brobbey's Leipzig experience was not a total waste with the opportunity to work under American coach Jesse Marsch and to play and train alongside the likes of the USMNT's Tyler Adams all valuable as he continues his soccer education.
"Jesse is a great coach and has a strong bond with the group," said Brobbey. "I hope that he does well with Leeds United. It did not go as well with Leipzig, but I know he has the quality to do well. He is a great person. Erik also bonds well with the group, and I think you must have that as a coach. That is a similarity. Tyler is a great guy, and he was a bit like a coach with the young players too. He is a great guy and will move forward."