Ten Cate fears disaster could strike

Matt Jones - Editor 02:26 11/01/2017
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  • Rallying the troops: Henk ten Cate.

    Despite an excellent first half of the season, Henk ten Cate fears disaster is lying in wait for Al Jazira as his side prepare for arguably their toughest run of fixtures yet amid a slew of absentees.

    The Pride of Abu Dhabi hadn’t tasted defeat bar September’s 2-1 Arabian Gulf Super Cup loss to Al Ahli until 25 days ago, but have since lost three of their last five games in all competitions.

    The first was a 2-0 reversal at the hands of Al Nasr in the Arabian Gulf League while their next two saw them lose their President’s Cup crown following a 6-0 hammering at Al Wahda last Wednesday before they were dumped out of the Arabian Gulf Cup 1-0 by the Red Knights on Monday.

    To compound matters, Ten Cate is dealing with the loss of his two star playmakers in Mbark Boussoufa, who is on African Cup of Nations duty with Morocco, and injured Emirati youngster Khalfan Mubarak.

    The pair have 10 goals and 10 assists between them this season but Jazira will be without them for league games against Al Wasl, Al Wahda, Al Ain and Sharjah before the end of January.

    “We miss some players. We lack creativity at the moment, this is the big problem,” said Ten Cate after the Ahli defeat, which saw Jazira exit two cup competitions inside a week.

    “We were the best team in the league and now after two defeats probably the worst team. The biggest problem is a lack of players and specific qualities, which we don’t have right now.”

    With Boussoufa and Mubarak’s absences and Ahmed Rabeya injured in training prior to the Ahli defeat, Ten Cate has only Ali Mabkhout, Ailton Almeida and Ahmed Al Attas to play in attack.

    “We have three forwards, that’s it,” added the Dutchman.

    “All three will play because we play with three (forwards), so hopefully nothing happens to one of them because otherwise it’s going to be disastrous. But this is how it is and we cannot change it.

    “The only thing I can do is to stay positive to my team because they work their socks off, and let’s wait and see. I think the most important thing is to stick together and keep working hard and with a smile, that’s important.

    “You know the programme we have and it’s not the easiest. We have Wasl, then Wahda, then Al Ain then Sharjah away, this is the next four games and most probably without all the players I mentioned.

    “But other teams have the same problems, maybe they had them in the first half (of the season) and now we have them. But we will be back and we will be back stronger.

    “This is also a message to the supporters. Our progress creates expectations. I understand they are disappointed but it’s important for them to stay close behind us because they (the players) need them, especially now.”

    Ten Cate was downbeat after Monday’s meek cup exit to the Red Knights but said it is important for everyone to remember that Jazira are still top of the league, and he insists they will fight to stay there.

    “We are still number one in the league and we will fight to defend that position but that is going to be difficult with so many players missing,” he said.

    “The medical staff cannot work miracles and Boussoufa still has to play the first game of the African Cup of Nations for Morocco. We miss him, for sure. You don’t have to know much about football to know this team is missing a player like him.

    “I think in the first half of the season he was one of the best players in the league, but we have to play without him so we have to find a way to regain our confidence.

    “Creativity is a key word, if you have Khalfan and Boussoufa the opposition will not go forward so easily, but with the players we have left we are going to work really hard to get results.”