TOTTENHAM will look to overturn a narrow deficit when they head to Amsterdam for the second leg of their Champions League semi-final tie tonight.
Spurs trail 1-0 on aggregate after Donny van de Beek’s 15th-minute goal at their new stadium last week in a match overshadowed by debate surrounding an injury to Jan Vertonghen, failing to cope with their young vibrant opponents in the first half before improving after the interval.
It was an odd weekend on the domestic front for Mauricio Pochettino’s side, who saw both Heung-min Son and Juan Foyth sent off in a stoppage-time defeat to Bournemouth.
They looked like they had missed the opportunity to guarantee a top-four Premier League finish ahead of the last round of fixtures, only for Manchester United and Arsenal to drop points 24 hours later, meaning that the Gunners will need a massive goal swing on the final day of the season to usurp their north London rivals.
Ajax, meanwhile, just seem to go from strength to strength after Klaas-Jan Huntelaar notched a brace in a 4-0 KNVB Cup Final demolition of Willem II at De Kuip on Sunday – their sixth straight win across all competitions and the first part of a potential treble.
Hassane Bande and Carel Eiting are Ajax’s only known injury absentees, while the likes of David Neres and Lasse Schone were limited to second-half cameos in Rotterdam with the second leg approaching fast.
Despite his domestic suspension, Tottenham will welcome back Son for this tie after he missed last week’s defeat as the result of a yellow card picked up in the thrilling quarter-final decider against Manchester City.
Pochettino is hopeful that Vertonghen will be fit to face his former club after it was ruled that he did not suffer a concussion in the first leg but would require a “brief period of rehabilitation.”
Harry Kane is still recovering from his ankle ligament injury, while Harry Winks underwent groin surgery last week and it remains to be seen when Serge Aurier and Erik Lamela will be able to return from respective hamstring issues.
Perhaps, unsurprisingly for a team that have played so many matches this season and not made a signing since January 2018, Tottenham are looking weary as the end of the season approaches.
However, the fact that they are only trailing by one goal and still well in the tie should give them confidence given how well Ajax started that first leg.
The pressure is off for Spurs in some ways as a result of them securing a top-four finish by their rivals’ ineptitude bar an unlikely sequence of final-day events, while Ajax do not appear quite as strong at home in the Champions League as they have been on the road (losing to Real Madrid and drawing with Juventus).
Having said that, only one of the 17 teams who have lost the home first leg of a semi-final in the Champions League era have gone on to win on aggregate – Ajax themselves in 1995-96. – EveningStandard