Abu Dhabi: Al Jazira’s 2-1 loss at the hands of Al Ahli was a one-off and there is no need to press the panic button, coach Henk ten Cate has insisted ahead of the derby against Al Ain on Wednesday.
The kick-off at the Mohammad Bin Zayed Stadium is at 8.30pm.
“We lost our second match in 20 games and that’s amazing. There is no reason to panic and I don’t see any change as we are in a similar situation as before,” said ten Cate.
“I would have signed 10 months ago to be in a situation where we are — No. 1 with six points difference from other teams,” added ten Cate vouching that he will not allow any team to steal that edge away from his side with six matches to go.
“Nobody can take that away from us as I will defend that like crazy as we have done an exceptional job. The team deserves all the credit in order to enjoy what they are doing. That’s why I’m sitting here with a big smile,” asserted ten Cate, adding that his side were “living a dream” and regardless of the result against Al Ain, their “dream will be alive”.
“We are just Al Jazira and with all respect to this club, who would have expected us to be in a position like this. I think nobody. So give this team the credit they deserve,” urged ten Cate, who also pinpointed that his team are the only side in the league doing well despite having six players under the age of 22.
“Tell me one team which play with such young players. Regardless of the result on Wednesday, we will still be No. 1 since we are leading the standings and that is amazing and the other team (Al Ain) has everything to lose,” said ten Cate, who will be missing the service of defender Fares Juma for the outing. Juma sits out following too many yellow cards.
The 62-year-old revealed that morale in the team is high and claimed the loss against Al Ahli has done very little harm.
“The preparation is very much okay but the players were disappointed because we lost in the 88th minute which I think we shouldn’t have lost. But this is football, sometimes you are lucky sometime you are not,” said the Dutchman, adding that the team have picked themselves up and they had very good training sessions.
“The smiles are back on their faces. We are prepared, of course, but we will miss Juma. Rest are on board and we look forward to the game. It is a good moment to play with Al Ain and we have to wait and see how it goes as derby matches are always intense,” said ten Cate, adding that there will be a certain amount of tension when the two big teams meet.
“Whether you are playing the first game or fifth or tenth with Al Ain or Al Ahli, there is a certain amount of tension. Because all these sides are the top teams from the UAE. For me, as a coach, it is the easiest match because every player wants to play that game. You don’t need to put extra attention to focus because all are charged up.”
Al Ain, on the other hand, come into the match following their 2-0 win against Hatta but are currently in third spot behind Al Ahli with 43 points.
“I expect a very strong match against a good team but we’re going to back our style of play. I have great confidence in my players and they have the level to achieve their goal on Wednesday,” said coach Zoran Mami, who feels that the pressure will be on Al Jazira to deliver — especially after their painful loss against Al Ahli.
“They (Al Jazira) will be eager to put the loss behind (them) and try and consolidate their lead in the league so that no team can challenge them in the remaining phase,” said Mamic, who brushed aside the view that it was his last opportunity to put his side back in title contention.
“I’m not thinking of the title race as of now. My focus is to win against Al Jazira and show we are the best team.”