The manager also faces a challenge in picking his own side to face the Italians. Ajax will be without Andre Onana and Sébastien Haller on Thursday night, as was already the case for some time. Additionally, Daley Blind and Noussair Mazraoui are both sidelined for a considerable amount of time. Three more players - Perr Schuurs, Sean Klaiber and Maarten Stekelenburg – are also questionable, Ten Hag explained. "We still have to wait and see for Maarten. It is not a long-term problem. But whether he will recover quickly enough for tomorrow, we do not yet know."
Nevertheless, Ten Hag himself is reluctant to call it a problem. "I don't have a selection problem. We have sixteen, seventeen players at the moment. If players drop out, others fill in. We have continued to win matches in recent months. Whether Onana, Haller, Blind or Mazraoui are there or not. We can bring in other players who ensure we remain a strong team. It’s just that that doesn't mean we won't miss those who are unavailable."
Abundance of matches in a matter of weeks
Jurriën Timber, among others, has been subtly integrated into the first team this season. The nineteen-year-old defender was ill at the end of March but already played a significant number of games in a short time before that. However, according to him, this is not a problem.
"In the youth teams, you are also used to playing three games a week. In the first team, everything is a bit harder. I had a hard time physically, but you get used to that."
On Thursday evening, a new test likely awaits him with the possibility of dueling with Edin Dzeko, AS Roma’s veteran striker. Timber is looking forward to that clash. "Dzeko as an opponent is not intimidating, but exciting. I knew him as a young boy when he was a Manchester City player. Now I can play against him and that is special."
Ten Hag also believes in his defense with Timber at the center of the rear guard - despite the loss of Blind to an ankle injury. "I think it doesn't matter whether Timber plays alongside Lisandro Martínez or Blind. The tasks remain the same. He is complementary to both players."
Strong run of form
Ajax can remain unbeaten for the 25th match in a row on Thursday with either a draw or victor – a special run, no doubt. But that’s not necessarily the focus, as Ten Hag explains, "We are not so concerned with that. We just want to win every game. When you’re on a run like this , it’s fine to talk about it from time to time. But as a coach, I’m just busy preparing the team as well as possible for the next game."
Timber shares that view. "Ultimately, it's about how many trophies you win and not how many games you have won in a row. What the coach said: 'we’re looking at it game-by-game'. We have been competing in the Eredivisie all season. It's also nice that we are in the cup final and still able to participate in Europe."