Erik ten Hag had some good news at the FC Utrecht pre-game press conference. Daley Blind and Ryan Babel will be in the match selection for Sunday’s game. He’s convinced that, with the right attitude, his team will do well in Utrecht.
Blind building up
Ten Hag kicked off with positive news about injured players. “Ryan Babel has trained with the team and is available to play against FC Utrecht. Daley Blind is back, too. He’s in a building-up phase and needs to play games at this point.” Other injured players, such as Hakim Ziyech, David Neres and Quincy Promes will unfortunately not be able to play on Sunday.
Crazy football calendar
The large number of injuries in the past few months doesn’t come as a surprise to Ten Hag. “I’ve said it before: the current football calendar makes not sense, it’s just crazy. Players haven’t had the chance to rest and haven’t been able to recover mentally or physically.” Ajax isn’t the only club where this is an issue, recognizes Ten Hag: “In that respect, we’re not the only ones. Our opponent on Sunday has had the same challenges. These are the injury months.”
The return of Babel and Blind is a step in the right direction. “The players who are still injured are annoyed about it. They’re chomping at the bit to return.”
Eiting needs to continue
Ten Hag expects to meet an FC Utrecht who will play a fighting game. “But we can fight, too. We lost in Groningen because we weren’t 100 per cent sharp, which we were against PSV. The difference was obvious. I want to see that sharpness on Sunday.”
Carel Eiting fulfilled an important role against PSV. “He got number 8 for a reason. This indicates the plans we have for him. It’s now up to him to remain fit and to continue in this way. We can use his chutzpah.”
Competition for centre-forward position
Despite many injuries, Ten Hag is still spoiled for choice at the front. For centre forward, he has three good options with Lassina Traoré, Klaas Jan Huntelaar, and Dusan Tadic. “The best will play, and we decide per game. Klaas Jan has been injured, and thus had a hard time at training camp in Qatar. Lassina is doing very well, against ADO Den Haag and in Qatar. He’s been making great progress. He can definitely learn a lot from Klaas (Huntelaar), clearly.”
Lessons from home game against FC Utrecht
The home game against FC Utrecht was perhaps the best one of the season, recalls Ten Hag. “We were only able to play with that formation for a short while. But we played a great game then. That formation had balance, and after that we needed to seek out the right formation again. We can learn a few lessons from that home game.”