ABU DHABI // Franky Vercauteren, the Al Jazira coach, wants his fringe players to take make the most of their opportunity in Friday night's derby with Al Ain.
The Belgian estimated he has a whole team missing through injury, suspension and players on international duty ahead of the trip to their Abu Dhabi rivals in the Etisalat Cup.
Jumaa Abdulla, Khaled Sabeel, Subait Khater, Ahmed Jumaa and Abdulla Mosa are with the UAE senior side, Lucas Neill is away with Australia, and Ibrahim Diaky, the captain, is suspended.
Vercauteren, who should be able to call on his foreign trio of Ricardo Oliveira, Bare and Matias Delgado, sees this as test of the depth of his squad.
"The preparations has been a little bit strange, because I think we could have 11 players missing in total, including maybe three through injury, Diaky who is suspended, and we have many away with the national set-up," Vercauteren said.
"Most of the first-choice defence is gone, but in some ways this is good because I will see how the other players cope in difficult circumstances.
"This will be a good test for them, so it's going to be interesting for me to watch what they do. It is their chance to show them how far they have come, and maybe they will do well enough to prove they can replace one of the guys who are missing.
"The one thing I will say is that I will not use this as an excuse. We will go into this game with the same ambition, which is to win. I am not going to hide behind the fact we are not at full strength. I am too busy working with the players I have."
Cosmin Olariou, the Al Ain coach, has similar problems. Faris Jumaa, Mosallam Faiz, Ali Al Weihibi are with the national team, while loan signing Asamoah Gyan is away with Ghana, and Yasser Al Qahtani will captain Saudi Arabia against Thailand on Tuesday. Mirel Radoi, the club's Romanian defender is available, but Ignacio Scocco, the Argentine, will not be risked as he recovers from injury.
Vercauteren said: "I have watched Al Ain in their past two matches and they are a good team, individually and collectively, so this is going to be a really difficult game. They play good football, so we will need to play at a high quality."
Friday night is Al Jazira's final game before their Pro League title defence begins next weekend with a home game against Al Ahli.
"It would be good to build more confidence before the league begins if we could get another win," Vercauteren said.
"But it is not just about the league. We want to qualify for the latter stages of this competition as well."
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