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Champions League: Ajax vs Tottenham Match Prediction and more

SENIOR ANALYST
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259   //    08 May 2019, 13:50 IST

Can the Ajax fairy tale continue?
Can the Ajax fairy tale continue?

Ajax get ready to welcome Tottenham Hotspur in the 2nd leg of their UEFA Champions League quarter-final tie at the Johan Cruyff Arena. The Dutch club hold a slender 1-0 aggregate lead over their English counterparts with Donny Van de Beek’s goal proving the difference at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

The teams though, come into the game on the back of some contrasting fortunes. While Ajax has been leaving everyone in their wake over the past few weeks, Spurs has slipped and stumbled its way to a top four league finish.  

Mauricio Pochettino’s troops have lost five of their last six competitive fixtures with two of them being the defeats to Ajax and Manchester City in the Champions League. Thus, the Lilywhites arrive in Netherlands hoping to rediscover their early-season form to keep their chances of a final appearance in Madrid alive.

Ajax, on the other hand, comfortably dispatched Willem II in the KNVB Cup Final at the weekend. Moreover, the Dutch club has been excellent in the second legs of the Champions League knock-out phases with triumphs over Juventus and Real Madrid adorning their journey to the last four.

The hosts have a full-strength squad to choose from and are expected to field a similar eleven to the one that took the field last Tuesday. The only question mark remains over the right-back slot with Erik Ten Hag boasting of the luxury of playing either Joel Veltman or Noussair Mazrouai in the aforementioned position.

Apart from the full-back spot, Matthijs De Ligt and Daley Blind are likely to start at the heart of the defence with the likes of Frenkie de Jong, Lasse Schone and Donny van de Beek lining up in midfield. In the offensive third, the effervescent trio of Hakim Ziyech, Dusan Tadic and David Neres look certain to play.

Tottenham, meanwhile, would have to alter their team combination a touch with the injury to Davinson Sanchez. However, after the relative joy they enjoyed in the 2nd half of the 1st leg, they’d be more than happy to start with a conventional back four.

Spurs would rely heavily on Moussa Sissoko to provide the bite and energy in midfield. The Frenchman was deemed unfit to start in North London and the Lilywhites suffered before his forced introduction.

In his absence, Ajax controlled the middle third easily with de Jong and Van de Beek pulling the strings. Thus, Spurs would want to keep the hosts’ midfield triumvirate in check if they harbour hopes of proceeding.

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Though only one club has ever overturned a first-leg home deficit in the history of the Champions League (ironically, Ajax), the Lilywhites could have an ace up their sleeve in the form of Fernando Llorente.

Spurs would bank on Son to spark a revival
Spurs would bank on Son to spark a revival

The Spaniard’s physicality caused the Dutch side all sorts of problems in the second half at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and the forward would relish the opportunity of having Son Heung Min alongside to capitalise on his hold-up play. The Korean was sorely missed in the 1st leg courtesy a suspension and his pace could be the key that unlocks Ajax’s defensive door. 

But, despite the threat Spurs boast of, the worst thing the hosts can do is sit back and invite the visitors on. After all, Ajax don’t play that way and any deviation from their playing style could have drastic consequences for the worse. Just ask Barcelona.

Thus, one can expect the hosts to throw every offensive weapon they have at Pochettino’s men whereas the latter would look to bide its time and strike decisive blows at crucial junctures.

The 2nd leg looks much more evenly poised than the 1st instalment, considering the visitors now have a clearer game-plan in mind. Yet, it would be extremely naïve to rule the Dutch side out, especially after their giant-killing spree this term.

Hence, all signs point to a tight game with both teams invariably getting on the score-sheet. 

The 2018-19 Champions League has seen a plethora of surprises already and it won’t cease to amaze till the final whistle is blown in Madrid on the 1st of June.

Though Ajax going through might not be that big a shock anymore, it would certainly represent as breath-taking a fairy tale as any.

 Score Prediction: 2-2  

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