Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Tottenham vs Ajax: squad news & preview

Tottenham and Ajax are unlikely Champions League semi-finalists but will continue their quest for European supremacy at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Tuesday.

Spurs have flirted with disaster regularly in the competition, requiring a late Lucas Moura equaliser against Barcelona to even guide them into the knockout rounds. Although Dortmund were negotiated comfortably, Manchester City were dismissed on the away goals rule after an impossibly dramatic 4-4 tie over two games.

The Dutchmen, meanwhile, have defied expectation at every turn, qualifying unbeaten from Group E. Since then, they have stunned Real Madrid and Juventus, earning the tag of neutrals’ favourites ahead of the semis.

If these two matches live up to what the teams have experienced previously, it will be a very special semi-final.

Squads & Team News
PositionTottenham players
GoalkeepersLloris, Vorm, Gazzaniga
DefendersTrippier, Rose, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Sanchez, Walker-Peters, Foyth, Davies
MidfieldersDier, Wanyama, Sissoko, Eriksen, Lucas, Marsh, Skipp, Lamela, Alli

Tottenham have particular issues in attack, where they are without Son Heung-min due to suspension and Harry Kane due to injury. Fernando Llorente, who got the tie-defining goal against Manchester City, will lead the line.

Serge Aurier, Erik Lamela and Harry Winks, who has recently undergone groin surgery, are also on the sidelines.

Jan Vertonghen is hopeful of shaking off a knock while midfielder Moussa Sissoko is back in training after an injury sustained against Manchester City.

Tottenham starting XI:Lloris, Trippier, Sanchez, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Wanyama, Rose, Eriksen, Dele, Lucas, Llorente.
PositionAjax squad
GoalkeepersOnana, Lamprou, Varela
DefendersDe Ligt, Blind, Sinkgraven, Veltman, Kristensen, Magallan, Mazraoui, Tagliafico
MidfieldersSchone, Van de Beek, De Jong, De Wit
ForwardsDolberg, Ziyech, Tadic, Neres, Huntelaar, Labyad, Ekkelenkamp

Ajax do not post any major injury problems, though the Dutch side are still without Carel Eiting, Hassana Bande and Vaclav Cerny.

Defender Noussair Mazraoui has travelled, despite a knock.

Ajax starting XI: Onana, Veltman, De Ligt, Blind, Tagliafico, Schone, Van de Beek, De Jong, Ziyech, Tadic, Neres

Match Preview

Long odds would have been given to any punter brave enough to back Tottenham to meet Ajax in the 2018-19 Champions League semi-finals back in August, but both sides have more than earned their place at this heady stage.

Drama has followed both throughout the tournament, with Spurs the last-gasp heroes while Ajax have indulged in two remarkable comebacks to slay European giants in their own homes.

As such, this tie is one that has split opinion down the middle.

Feyenoord forward Robin van Persie, formerly of Arsenal and Manchester United, is backing Ajax to negotiate the tie and reach the final, while Mauricio Pochettino has suggested that he has half an eye on the final on June 1 by stating that Harry Kane could be fit for it.

The Spurs boss, who saw his side progress thanks to a Sergio Aguero goal for Manchester City disallowed by VAR at the very last in the quarter-finals, believes that the Eredivisie’s postponement of all last weekend’s fixtures is an underhand way to give Ajax an edge.

“I think it’s not fair,” he said on the Dutch authorities pushing back the closing date of their season by three days.

Ajax boss Erik ten Hag has laughed such claims off, citing the vast income disparity between the clubs.

“We get €10m (£8.7m/$11.2m) for playing in the Eredivisie and they get many more millions for playing in the Premier League. Is that not unfair on us?” he answered.

“There are always differing circumstances. You just have to deal with them.”

Ajax have certainly proved themselves adept at coping with whatever has been thrown at them this season, notably performing well on their travels. A stunning 4-1 win against Real Madrid will go down as one of the all-time great European performances and that was backed up by an equally formidable showing to oust Juventus thanks to a 2-1 victory in Turin.
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Spurs defender Jan Vertonghen, who came through the academy of the Amsterdam outfit, has praised their attitude as “fearless”.

“Ajax are playing at an unbelievable level. You don't expect teams apart from the big countries to do this. They have shown the way to do it,” he warned his team-mates.

Whatever happens on Tuesday, nothing will be decided until the return leg in Amsterdam in eight days. The remarkable campaigns of both teams have already proven that.

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