Tottenham and Ajax meet on Tuesday night in what is without a doubt the surprise semi of the season. Both teams have battled against the odds and overcome some of the Europe’s elite clubs to make it into the last four of the Champions League. Now they stand on the precipice of achieving what many players and clubs can only dream of.
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Fatigue will play its part
Spurs are looking a little overworked at the moment, but that’s certainly not the case for Ajax. The Dutch FA decided to postpone the whole Eredivisie fixture list at the weekend in order to ensure Ajax had the best possible preparations for the tie.
Such behavior highlights the importance and stature of this fixture to Dutch football, but also the difference in approach between the two national footballing bodies of England and the Netherlands.
It couldn’t be any more different for the home side. Tottenham’s threadbare squad have battled to overcome fatigue for some time now. Having made no signings in the last three transfer windows, Mauricio Pochettino has endured a tough balancing act when it comes to utilising his main assets on the pitch.
One eye on the prize
Whether it was merely tiredness, complacency or a major switch in priority, Tottenham suffered their first loss in their new stadium to West Ham by a solitary goal at the weekend. It certainly won’t do much to inspire confidence.
It’s true that Spurs have been slipping for some time now in the league, racking up seven defeats since January. Their rich vein of form from the first half of the season as well as incapable opposition have meant they’re still clinging to a third place finish.
Still, Spurs have shown that when they need to dig deep in the Champions League they can find the results they need to make it through. Mauricio Pochettino’s side have so far put four past both Borussia Dortmund and Manchester City in the knockout stages.
Seeing it off at all costs
Ajax do whatever it takes to get the job done. Whether that’s by youthful exuberance or sheer stubbornness, Ajax without a doubt have the guile to get the job done – especially over two legs.
The Amsterdammers have come from behind on two occasions to earn draws against German heavyweights Bayern Munich. Since then they’ve barely looked back.
Despite conceding late on at home to gift reigning champions Real Madrid two away goals, they came firing on all cylinders two weeks later going 2-0 up inside 20 minutes and adding a third before Real even had a chance to retort.
A potentially tougher challenge against Juventus was measured with an end to end thriller of a quarter final first leg. Ronaldo opened the scoring but it was Brazilian David Neres who replied in an instant.
Ajax had a tougher prospect in grabbing a winning result in Turin, but managed to seal a 1-2 win. Goals from budding academy talents Matthijs de Ligt and Donny van de Beek are a fair representation of what this Ajax side are all about.
Take your chances
Both sides excel at playing expansive football once they get going. But the major concern for Spurs isn’t just their squad’s fatigue, but the growing list of players out of action. Key strike duo Harry Kane is out injured and Son Heung-Min is suspended for the first leg. In contrast, Ajax have all of their main players fit and ready for Tuesday night.
Both sides love to attack, but it will be interesting to see takes their chances. For all their youth Ajax are strong at the back, while the Spurs defensive line can be prone to moments of madness. Expect goals and expect excitement.