Ajax may have never been regarded as one of the ‘underdog’ teams to reach the semi-final of the UEFA Champions League at the start of the competition, considering the calibre of players in their disposal.
However, the team have proved football pundits wrong with some sterling results against ‘football giants’ such as reigning champions, Real Madrid and Juventus.
However, like the saying that when the going gets tough, the tough get going, a statement the young and enterprising Ajax squad will want to prove in tonight’s (Tuesday) UEFA Champions League first-leg semi-final clash against Tottenham Hotspur at Tottenham Stadium.
There is no doubt that both teams will be seeking to reach the final of one of Europe’s most lucrative and watched competitions as they bid to write their names in gold.
Not since their first ever European campaign in 1961-62 have Spurs made it to the semi-finals of this competition, but they will now believe that they have what it takes to go all the way. While Ajax, having won the trophy four times and last made the final in the 1995-1996 season, where the team lost via penalties against Juventus.
For Spurs to have even made it this far is an achievement for which deserves huge credit considering Pochettino has had to deal with a relatively shallow squad, having not made a single signing in either transfer window this season.
Pochettino’s side were also in relatively poor form before they welcomed Man City to North London in the quarter-finals, though, and they will no doubt draw a belief from their thrilling aggregate victory over the English champions.
Harry Kane has been ruled out of tonight’s game due to injury while Son Heung-min won’t be part of the first-leg due to card offence. There are still fitness doubts surrounding Harry Winks and Erik Lamela, though, while Tuesday’s match will come too soon for Moussa Sissoko and Serge Aurier.
On the other hand, Nicolas Tagliafico, Carel Eiting and Noussair Mazraoui are expected to miss today’s game against Tottenham due to injury.
These two sides have only faced off in one previous European tie, with Spurs running out 6-1 aggregate winners in the first round of the 1981-82 Cup Winners’ Cup.
Spurs won the home leg of that tie 3-0, although that is Ajax’s only previous defeat in London having otherwise won once and drawn twice in the English capital.
Tottenham have only ever lost one home game against Dutch opposition and are six matches without defeat to an Eredivisie outfit stretching back to 2007.
“To reach the semi-final means they have a lot of quality and of course unbelievable players. Ajax are doing fantastically. They were unbeaten in the group stage against tough teams like Bayern Munich and then beating Real Madrid and Juventus. Only the results describe how strong the team is.
“We can talk about quality but I think it’s difficult to find some weakness. It’s a team which deserves a lot of credit, the manager and the players are doing a fantastic job.
Ten Hag (Ajax)
“It’s amazing that we are in the Champions League semi-finals – nobody could have predicted at the beginning of the season that a Dutch team would end up in the Champions League semi-finals.
“I think this is really the motto of our team – we have achieved something, but we want to do more. We don’t want to rest on our laurels.
Tottenham: Lloris; Trippier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Davies; Eriksen, Dier, Alli, Rose; Llorente, Lucas
Ajax: Onana; Veltman, De Ligt, Blind, Mazraoui; Schone, De Jong; Ziyech, Van Beek, Neres; Tadic