There are several warning signs for Spurs ahead of their Champions League clash with Ajax, leading Paul Higham to suggest there could be another Dutch masterclass in prospect.
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Tottenham v Ajax (2000 BST - BT Sport 2)
The Champions League semi-finals seemed nothing more than a pipe dream for Spurs after taking one point from their opening three games of the competition this season, but they’ve now got just surprise package Ajax standing between them and the final in Madrid.
Spurs have been a little bit on the sluggish side since their epic win over Man City, understandably so, but they need to wake up a bit and improve on performances during three 1-0 results (two defeats and one win) in order to avoid becoming another notch for the lively Dutch side.
Tottenham’s new stadium stronghold was broken by West Ham, while Brighton almost got a point, and as special as it is after winning at Real Madrid and Juventus, Ajax will not be afraid of turning up and putting on another show in north London.
With Harry Kane out injured and Heung-Min Son suspended they’re left with Fernando Llorente to lead the line against Ajax, and with Mauricio Pochettino has admitting his side were tired against the Hammers that sets alarm bells ringing for the hosts here.
Spurs fans will be hoping another European atmosphere can lift their players but tired legs will be exposed by a young, dynamic Ajax side who can move the ball quickly and attack at a frightening pace, and have had the luxury of having Dutch league fixtures moved around to give them extra preparation time.
This, meanwhile, will be a 54th game of the season for Spurs with largely the same players - whether they can go to the well again against an energetic opposition, and whether a young Ajax side can cope with the reality of being a tie away from the Champions League final will decide this contest.
Prediction: Tottenham 1-2 Ajax (Sky Bet odds: 9/1)
Although Spurs have been strong and stingy at home, Ajax have scored 160 goals in all competitions this season and have bagged in ten straight Champions League games so if any team can register then it is the Dutch side. They're built perfectly to play in these away legs and are hugely dangerous in counter-attacking situations, so even though there's less urgency than in second leg away ties in the previous rounds they only play one way and that's to attack.
Best bet: Ajax to win at 19/10
The cat is well and truly out of the bag with Ajax this season meaning they're not the greatest price for another Champions League away win, but it's still one worth taking given all the factors in their favour. It'd be a close call even with Spurs at full strength but with so many injuries and poor recent run (seven defeats in 13) of form, let alone that Ajax are well rested and Spurs look leggy, then it all points to another Dutch masterclass.
Stats: Dusan Tadic and Hakim Ziyech to have 4+ shots on target between them
Tadic has been a revelation for Ajax and in fact, the former Southampton man has been involved in more Champions league goals this season than anyone not named Lionel Messi, while Moroccan winger Ziyech not only has an eye for goal but loves to step in off the flank and have a shot or two, so we're well placed here to land the spoils.
RequestABet: Ajax to win, over 2.5 goals, Dusan Tadic to score
Tottenham Hotspur – Ajax - Opta stats
- Tottenham have won both of their previous meetings with Ajax in all competitions, winning both legs in the first round of the 1981-82 Cup Winners’ Cup (3-1 away, 3-0 at home).
- Ajax have won just one of their six previous Champions League meetings with English opposition (3-1 vs Man City in October 2012), with all three of their away games finishing as draws (twice vs Arsenal, once vs Man City).
- Tottenham are looking to become the 40th different team to reach the final of the European Cup/Champions League, and the eighth different English side (already more than any other nation). The last team to reach the final for the first time were their London rivals Chelsea in 2008.
- Tottenham are playing in their first European Cup/Champions League semi-final since 1961-62, when they were eliminated by eventual winners Benfica.
- After knocking out both Real Madrid and Juventus, Ajax became the first side in European Cup/Champions League history to progress from two different knockout rounds within the same campaign when failing to win their first leg at home.
- Of sides to have appeared in at least five European Cup/Champions League semi-finals, only Benfica (7/8 - 87.5%), AC Milan (10/12 - 83.3%) and Liverpool (8/10 - 80%) have a higher progression rate to the final than Ajax (6/8 – 75%). The Dutch side are playing in their first Champions League semi-final since 1996-97, when they lost to Juventus.
- Tottenham have won eight of their last 10 Champions League home games (L2), including each of the last four in a row. They’ve also kept a clean sheet in each of their last three.
- Ajax have won their last three away games in the Champions League, as many as they had in their previous 31 on the road in the competition (W3 D11 L17).
- The average age of Ajax’s starting XI in the Champions League this season has been 24 years and 257 days – the youngest of any of the semi-finalists, and second youngest of all 32 teams to take part in the competition this season.
- Son Heung-min’s brace for Tottenham against Man City in their last game made him the highest Asian goalscorer in Champions League history (12 goals). All four of the South Korean’s goals this season have come in the knockout stages.
- Only Lionel Messi (13) has been directly involved in more Champions League goals this season than Ajax’s Dusan Tadic (9 – 6 goals, 3 assists).