Although very much the B-side to the Barcelona-Liverpool lead single in this week’s Champions League semi-finals, this match has the potential to be highly intriguing. Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham, shorn of their two leading scorers, take on an Ajax side that has already shredded Real Madrid’s hopes of a fourth consecutive continental title, as well as Juventus’ bid to succeed the Spanish side. Spurs come into this tie as favourites. Then again, so did Real and Juventus.
The really intriguing part is that the London side come into this game minus Harry Kane – injured and possibly gone for the season – and the suspended Son Heung-Min. Son may be the bigger miss, having accounted for three of his side’s four goals across two legs in the previous round against Manchester City. Also, Spurs come into this game on the back of a disappointing 1-0 loss at home to West Ham on Saturday. Ajax, meanwhile, are well-rested; the Dutch FA called off the weekend’s Eredivisie fixtures to allow the Amsterdam side additional prep time for this game.
Tottenham vs Ajax Amsterdam Prediction: Tottenham 1-1 Ajax Amsterdam
Spurs have experienced a number of firsts at their new ground in the past month – less than four weeks ago, they played the first game, got their first goal and their first win (through Son), against Crystal Palace. The weekend just past saw them concede, and lose, for the first time at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Domestically, Spurs have joined in the merry mess of four clubs seemingly fighting not to qualify for this tournament again next season, and with their thin squad starting to look dangerously threadbare, they’ll have a job on their hands to hold off an impressively dynamic Ajax side.
Our recommended tip: Neres to score
Recently capped by Brazil, and on target in the last two rounds, David Neres is one of the big success stories of Ajax’s European odyssey this season. He is 33/10 with MansionBet to get on the scoresheet this evening, and for the lives of us we cannot understand why. The wide attacker plays a huge part in Ajax’s front three alongside Dusan Tadic and Hakim Ziyech; all three will need constant attention from the Spurs back line, but close marking hasn’t stopped Neres in Madrid and at home to Juve.
If past games between the sides are anything to go on, the omens are on Spurs’ side, as the North London side emerged 6-1 winners on aggregate the last time they came into contact. Spurs won the first leg 3-1 in Amsterdam, through goals from Ricky Villa and Mark Falco (2). Neither of those players will be active tonight, and nor will anyone else who played in that tie, because it was in 1981. Not, perhaps, the most reliable form guide for a fixture played 38 years later, but Spurs will hope that history points the way this evening.
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Players to watch: Christian Eriksen & Frenkie de Jong
With Kane and Son unavailable, Spurs will need to look elsewhere for the inspiration that the aforementioned players have provided this season. The most likely source for goals – either to score or to create – is Danish playmaker Eriksen. A dead-ball maestro, he’s also hugely influential in open play and it will fall to him to get things moving for the home side in less-than-ideal circumstances. A peach of a goal against Inter Milan pulled Spurs through the group stages against the odds. A repeat tonight would be helpful.
It’s only been this season that Ajax have really started to look anything more than a shadow of the great sides in the club’s history – and unfortunately, they may well be reduced next season by the feeding frenzy led by bigger clubs coveting the stars of this enchanting young side. One among that number, de Jong has already agreed to join Barcelona next season. Still just 21, his passing range, dribbling and game intelligence will fit right in at the Nou Camp – but he’ll hope to leave Amsterdam with a Champions League trophy to remember him by.