And then there were four… and the four remaining clubs in European football’s premier competition include one of last year’s finalists, a current heavyweight massively favoured to take home the trophy, an club of yesteryear legend reborn, and a newcomer to the dizzy heights of the semifinals.
Tottenham vs Ajax Semifinals Prediction and Preview
In this UEFA Champions League Semifinals preview we try examine the complex question of which sides will meet each other in Madrid for the final charge at the 2018/19 trophy.
|Head to Head||Tottenham||Ajax|
|All Time European Matches||Spurs 2 Wins, 0 Draws, Ajax 0 Wins|
|Last time they met…||Cup Winners Cup Round 1 1981; Spurs won 6-1 on aggregate|
|Current League Record (as at 27 Apr)||3rd||1st|
|Last Semifinal Appearance||1962||1997|
|Last Season’s Performance||Round of 16||Did Not Qualify|
|Odds of Interest (as at 27 Apr)||Tottenham||Ajax|
|1st Leg Result (Draw = 2.38)||1.43||2.00|
|2nd Leg Result (Draw = 2.41)||2.50||1.16|
|Winner of Champions League||4.00||4.50|
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It’s somewhat disrespectful to dismiss Tottenham’s run to knock out German challengers Dortmund and their dramatic display English champions Manchester City in the quarterfinal, but there’s no disputing that Ajax have the affection of many fans in this tie. Their 2018/19 season has been a marvel beyond expectation with the young Dutch team now facing a chance to achieve an incredible treble for the first time since 1972, while Spurs appear in only their second European semifinal since losing to Benfica in 1962.
Form: Spurs have had to count the cost of injuries and suspensions, especially in respect of Harry Kane. They’ve incurred 3 losses in their last 4 since the wins over Manchester City and bottom of the table Huddersfield, albeit 2 of them coming against Manchester City. Ajax enter the tie in great form having won 4 in a row, and 7 of their last 8 matches.
Scheduling: Spurs played to a frustrating loss at home on the weekend against West Ham, and host Ajax in their new stadium amidst both mixed form and a suspension to quarterfinal hero Heung Min Son. A trip to Bournemouth is sandwiched between the home and away leg. Due to league and cup scheduling rules, Ajax have the benefit (or disruption) of a 7 day break ahead of the trip to London. Significantly, they meet midtable club Willem II in the final of the KNVB Cup days ahead of their 2nd leg in Amsterdam against Spurs.
If there’s one thing Spurs proved that they possess in spades, it’s tactical flexibility within the structural limitations of a squad feeling stretched by both form and fatigue. Their best ever Champions League campaign has been characterized by resilience and flexibility, but the semifinal may prove their most difficult hurdle. The absences of Kane (ankle injury), Son (1st leg suspension) and potentially pivotal midfielders Sissoko and Winks (groin injury) will mean Spurs have to field a less-than preferred configuration in midfield and attack. While their backline should remain intact and in good shape to temper some of Ajax’s threat, anxiety will remain especially given how the midfield battle against Manchester City proved so decisive in creating the problems Spurs failed to handle in their quarterfinal 2nd leg.
The hope for Spurs may be that Ajax’s attacking emphasis doesn’t appear to be compensating effectively for their defence; the club has only managed to keep 5 clean sheets in 21 matches in all competitions since the start of 2019. But their goalscoring prowess is considerable; their 160 goals across league, cup and Europe this season is now an all-time record from a Dutch side.
Ajax’s total football has incredible efficacy, and their central (De Jong, Schone) and attacking midfield (Ziyech, van der Beek, Neres) has become the envy of most purist football fans in Europe for their ability to create from anywhere. If Spurs can hold the storm and achieve a clean sheet win in the 1st leg without their best strikers, hope for the final increases. But while Spurs are having a good season, Ajax are having a great one, and that may be incentive enough for the Dutch to follow a likely KNVB Cup win on the 5th May with a heroic return to Madrid to feature in the Champions League final.
Please note betting odds quoted are correct at time of publication and are subject to change.
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