Tottenham are heading into the biggest match of their season as they travel to face Ajax on Wednesday night. Although they have a one-goal deficit, they are only one game away from the Champions League final and they may never get a better chance to reach that stage of the competition. Unfortunately for Spurs, they have suffered injuries and suspensions at the worst possible time of the campaign. Their lack of transfer activity in recent windows has left them with a lack of squad depth that has been there for all to see. Despite that, they are in with a chance and their task is far from impossible.
Ajax have been the story of European football this season. Few expected them to get out of their group, but their journey since has grabbed the headlines. The legendary Dutch club have knocked out Real Madrid and Juventus, two teams that were expected to go deep into the competition. In addition to that, they have managed to win all three away matches of the knockout stages. It is rare to see a club build a team filled with academy graduates, but Ajax have managed to do just that and they are one match away from the Champions League final. The majority will be rooting for this fairytale to continue.
At one stage, the Premier League were dominating the competition with all four teams reaching the quarter-final of the competition. It now looks unlikely that they will be represented in the final. Tottenham have the best chance of reaching that stage and they will be throwing everything at this match to qualify. They will be boosted by the return of Son Heung-min, which gives them a bigger threat in the final third. Mauricio Pochettino will wish he had more of his key players available, but he will believe that those selected can overturn the deficit.
- Ajax have only won two of their five home Champions League matches since the group stages of the competition began.
- Tottenham have scored in every away match they have played in this season’s Champions League.
The defender is regarded as one of the best in his position already and he is only 19-years-old. Ajax have shown faith in him since an early age and he has thrived with the responsibility bestowed upon him as captain of the club. The teenager lifted the Dutch Cup over the weekend and he has commented that the triumph has only given the squad more hunger to triumph in the Champions League. It would be a remarkable achievement if they did manage to finish the job on Wednesday night. The return of Son Heung-min should mean that Tottenham pose more of a threat. This will increase the responsibility of De Ligt and he will be given a platform to shine. In the first leg, he helped Ajax to a crucial clean sheet, making three interceptions, four clearances and winning two aerial duels. It was an accomplished display that indicated how talented he is, but his team may require more from him on Wednesday to progress.
It has been a strange few weeks for Son Heung-min, as Tottenham supporters have seen both his brilliance and lack of discipline. The latter is something that hasn’t previously been seen from the South Korean and it has hurt his team on two occasions. He missed the first leg due to picking up a silly yellow card against Manchester City in the previous round. Meanwhile, at the weekend, he was sent off against Bournemouth for raising his hand to Jefferson Lerma. It was a silly thing to do and his team suffered the punishment. However, in the previous round, he scored a brace away to Manchester City to help his team progress. Tottenham will need a similar return from the attacker on Wednesday and he is capable of delivering that.
Ajax don’t have any major injury concerns. The only two players missing are Hassane Bande and Carel Eiting, but neither would have been likely to start.
Jan Vertonghen could be back to face Ajax, which would provide Tottenham with a timely defensive boost. Son Heung-min is back from suspension. Harry Kane, Harry Winks, Erik Lamela and Serge Aurier are all missing.
This is going to be a fascinating watch for the neutral, as neither team are used to being at this stage of the competition. Ajax haven’t shown many signs of weakness, but their form at home in the knockout stages does provide hope for Tottenham. The Premier League side have shown that they are capable of scoring away from home against the likes of Barcelona, Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund. This should have more goals than the first leg, but the home side should have enough to progress.
Ajax 2-2 Tottenham