Safe to say, Spurs’ season has been uplifted by their run to the Champions League semi-finals.
Indifferent domestic form has left Tottenham in a top-four shootout that they should have comfortably avoided.
In Europe, they’ve enjoyed dramatic comebacks in the group stages, a comprehensive brace of wins over a fancied Borussia Dortmund, and the unforgettable second leg against Manchester City.
Spurs did in fact lose that second leg; however, in all but result it was a night of victory for the London club.
It’s well established at this point that Tottenham rarely draw games; suitably, in their last ten they’ve lost five and won five.
Liverpool, Man City (twice), West Ham, and Southampton inflicted the reversals and the majority of these are excusable based on context and opposition.
Last weekend’s anemic loss to West Ham United ended their 100 per cent start to life in the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, and while they still look primed for a top-four slot, the loss will give Mauricio Pochettino cause for thought.
The European form of their opponents has been one of the main talking points of this season’s Champions League.
Erik ten Hag has guided Ajax to two draws against Bayern Munch in the group stages, a last-16 success over Real Madrid (including a 4-1 win at the Bernabeu), and their bossing of Juventus last time out to reach the semis.
A remarkable team, playing remarkable football, which sadly will be stripped for parts come season’s end.
Thankfully we have them for a small while longer.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) April 24, 2019
Their Dutch rivals won’t miss this team. Ajax have scored an incredible 111 goals in 32 games in the Eredivisie this campaign. PSV have done well to keep pace, both sides are locked on 80 points at the moment.
Six league wins in a row has given them a good shot at doing the double.
For a reading of this game, I think we can read Manchester City v Spurs.
Ajax can reach a level with their passing game that is frankly embarrassing if you’re the opposition. Not dissimilar to Man City.
Real Madrid and Juventus were driven to desperation and distraction by the quality and audacity of their play.
There’s something irresistible about watching Ajax embracing their Cruyffian ‘Total Football’ heritage, and on all evidence, it serves them well.
While Spurs have been nowhere near that level in terms of fluidity, they have produced virtuoso performances this season.
None more so than their Champions League tussle with City. Their high-press and nuts and bolts defending was of such a level that City were kept scoreless in the first leg.
Their lack of away goals sealed their fate. Pochettino and his side will be hoping to lock out another feared attack.
So much hinges on this first leg. We’ve seen it before: those who fail to score away from home can find themselves in a near impossible position.
I see Ajax scoring in London, and ultimately, I see them progressing to their first Champions League final since 1996.
Two big blows for Spurs going in to this game: the continued absence of Harry Kane, and suspended from their last game in the semi-final, Heung-Min Son. Serge Aurier is also expected to miss out, while there are question marks over the fitness of Erik Lamela and Harry Winks.
For the visitors, they should have their main protagonists available for selection. Hassane Bande and Carel Eiting are unavailable, Noussair Mazraoui is likely to miss out as well.
Three bets to recommend for the first leg, all of which are based on Ajax’s ability to score away from home.
First up, the lesser-spotted Spurs draw. They have drawn just one game in the league, and two games in the Champions League group stages.
That being said, I’m seeing a score draw priced at 16/5.
Next up, Half-Time/Full-Time – Ajax/Draw at 12/1.
And, finally, Ajax to progress to the final
Ajax to Qualify at 5/6.