On Sunday, Ajax will play in a sold-out ArenA against Heracles, the team that beat them in the very first game of the season. Ten Hag will very likely call on the recovered Kasper Dolberg for the selection, and he will need to find a solution at the back for the suspended Joël Veltman.
“Kasper hasn’t fully recovered”, said Ten Hag during Thursday’s press conference at de Toekomst sports complex. “But of course, he can’t. We’ll be taxing him more on the training field, and after that in Ajax 1 matches. I think he’ll be in the selection for Sunday.”
The trainer went through the other injuries as well: “Frenkie de Jong is improving, but won’t be with us on Sunday. We, and he, are working very hard to get him fit again. Max Wöber is sick, with fever and a sore throat. Hopefully he’ll be there on Sunday.”
Ten Hag still has a puzzle to solve due to Veltman’s suspension. “I’m not going to discuss which options I have. But rest assured that there will be 11 men on the field.”
Four players on the edge
Hakim Ziyech, Klaas Jan Huntelaar, Donny van de Beek and Nicolás Tagliafico are on the edge and, should they get yellow cards on Sunday, they’ll be suspended for the top game against PSV. “I’ll be keeping an eye on that during the game, but they’re aware of it themselves. They know that the results come first.”
And Ajax, obviously, is playing to win. Heracles beat Ajax in the first game of the season. “I know how Ajax lost to Heracles”, said the coach, who, at the time, was still at the helm of FC Utrecht. “Heracles has a team with a good team spirit and soul. And a few players who can be unpredictable.”
Show more guts and courage
Against Heracles, Ten Hag would like to see his team make a different start than they did against Groningen. “That wasn’t the way it should be. I also discussed it with the team. We could’ve been down by 2-0 at halftime if that penalty – which, by the way, wasn’t justified – had gone in. But we found a way to win. But lately, we’ve been in this pattern of starting games poorly.”
“We need to try to break through this”, continued Ten Hag. “We need to be more assertive with the ball, show more guts and courage. The positive thing is that Ajax shows resilience and a tempo that sets the pace, and the opponent can’t disrupt that. Moreover, we have many players who can score; several of them are on the top scorer’s list.”
But before Ajax goes into action, AZ and PSV will play on Saturday. Ten Hag: “It’s clear, it’s the number 1 vs the number 3 team, and we’re in between them. But our focus needs to be on our own game.”
Ajax - Heracles kicks off on Sunday at 16:45.