Tottenham will play their first ever Champions League semi-final this week, as they welcome Ajax to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. There has been great anticipation ever since the quarter-final victory over Manchester City. This should be an entertaining tie, with both teams wanting to play a positive brand of football. The home side’s achievements have been somewhat overshadowed by the exploits of their semi-final opponents. Both sides have done extremely well to reach this stage, but they are now so close that they will have one eye on the final in Madrid.
It has been a strange month for Tottenham. They have had the feel good factor from moving into a new stadium and reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League. However, there will have been a lot of disappointment about their recent league form. At the weekend, they lost their 100% record at their new stadium as local rivals West Ham United prevailed by 1-0 scoreline at the weekend. Their top four status remains far from secure, but the continual struggles of their rivals below them means that they are unlikely to be punished for recent defeats. If they manage to go one step further in this competition, it could rank as one of the club’s best achievements in recent history.
Ajax have been a breath of fresh air in this competition, showing that it is possible to compete against the European elite with a modest budget. Their big signing of last summer was Dusan Tadic from Southampton. Although he was a solid player in the Premier League, he was far from one of the best in the division. However, the Dutch club saw his quality and he has since had one of the best seasons of any player in Europe. The rest of the side is mainly made up of youth graduates, as the Eredivisie club show that they can continue to produce elite players.
Both of these teams have scored in every one of their Champions League knockout matches.
Ajax haven’t reached a Champions League final since 1996.
The Brazilian has been a good player for Tottenham this season and has continually stepped up when other key attacking players have been missing. He will be expected to provide the main goal threat on Tuesday, due to the injury to Harry Kane and suspension of Son Heung-min. Although he hasn’t played a major role in the Champions League success, he has featured in the competition, scoring two goals. Mauricio Pochettino will be hoping that the former PSG player can add to that total on Tuesday night to give the side something to defend in the Netherlands. During the previous round, the team’s narrow 1-0 win at home proved crucial as they were able to progress on away goals. They will likely need a similar result in the semi-final, as Ajax will be capable of scoring more than once at home.
The feelgood story of Ajax has centred on the form of Dusan Tadic, who has been trusted to play a false nine role in attack. The 30-year-old is having a career-defining season and he will be hoping to help his team to the Champions League final, as he is unlikely to get a better opportunity of featuring in the game. During this season’s competition, he has scored six goals and contributed three assists. He is the lynchpin of this Ajax attack and he has starred in matches against both Juventus and Real Madrid. Tottenham have been vulnerable at the back and won’t enjoy the relentless attacking game used by the visiting team. This is an opportunity for Tadic to improve his reputation in the English game.
It will be a major blow for Tottenham as Son Heung-min will be suspended for the first leg after picking up another yellow card in the last match against Manchester City. Harry Kane remains on the injury list, so he won’t be able to play for the home side. Fernando Llorente is expected to start. Moussa Sissoko, Serge Aurier and Erik Lamela are all expected to miss out.
Ajax don’t have any injury concerns to worry about, which gives them a great chance of recording a third successive away victory in the Champions League knockout rounds. This will be an opportunity for English supporters to see the likes of Matthijs de Ligt, Frenkie de Jong and David Neres up close.
There are two great semi-final ties scheduled to be played and they should both be great watches for the neutral. Ajax will be confident of getting something out of this game. It would be a surprise to see Tottenham keep a clean sheet, considering Ajax scored in all four matches against Juventus and Real Madrid. Given their injury and suspension crisis, this is going to be a very difficult mission for the home side. An away win is more than possible.
Tottenham 1-2 Ajax