Will Spurs Replicate Liverpool’s Magic Tonight?

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Tottenham faces Ajax tonight in the return leg of the UEFA champions League Semi-Final at the Amsterdam stadium. After a scintillating performance by fellow English team, Liverpool, last night that secured a dramatic come-back from a 3-0 deficit to subdue hot favourites Barcelona with 4 unreplied goals to qualify for the final, the world sits with bated breath as pundits and fans alike wonder if Spurs follow Liverpool’s example by overturning their first leg narrow defeat of 0-1 and setting up an all-English final in the UCL? BRANDPOWER examines the tactics, intrigues and form of the two teams to know who boast of greater advantage. 

Liverpool shocked the world last night when they tore Barcelona into shreds and progressed into this year’s UEFA Champions league final to be played in Madrid come June. Prior to the match, many had tipped the Catalans to ease past the Reds Army. But few seconds into the end of the game, it was the Reds that were singing sweet songs of victory and the world joined them in the glorious chant.

What surprised soccer fans all over the world was the fact that Liverpool did the impossible without their talisman, Mohammed Salah without knowing that mercy departed the Catalans for the Red. Last night’s encounter was indeed a classic showdown whose memories will linger in peoples mind for years.

Like Liverpool, Tottenham find themselves in the same boat but this time, it is against a promising and youthful Dutch team. All eyes will be on Spurs tonight as many will love to see their reaction after already trailing 1-0 to Ajax from their first-leg tie with the Dutch side scoring a crucial away goal.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side have lost five of their last six games in all competitions, including a late defeat to Bournemouth in the Premier League on Saturday where Heung-Min Son and Juan Foyth were sent off.

Ajax certainly will not lack belief when they host Spurs, having already knocked three-time defending champions Real Madrid out in the round of 16 before overcoming Juventus in the quarter-finals.

The Eredivisie side are bidding to reach their first Champions League final in 23 years and will be favourites after Donny van de Beek’s goal in north London last week.

Only one team of the 17 who have lost a Champions League semi-final, first leg at home have overturned the tie — when Ajax over-ran Panathinaikos in the second leg in 1995/96.

Pochettino hopes the first-leg deficit will spur his side to play with more freedom in the Johan Cruyff Arena. “The negative result in the first leg obviously makes it more difficult tomorrow, but the tie is still open,” the Argentine said. “We know we need to win and perform to our best. It’s an exciting moment for us.

“We need to feel more freedom to play tomorrow, because we have nothing to lose.”

Pochettino was in a playful mood and even suggested he would “go home” if Tottenham went on to win the Champions League.

Asked to clarify, he said: “To win the Champions League with Tottenham, in this circumstance, maybe I need to think to do something different in the future.”

According to Opta stats,  Ajax will attempt to reach their first European Cup final since 1996 (losing finalists against Juventus) whilst Tottenham would become the 40th different team in Champions League/European Cup history to make the showpiece game, and the first to reach their first such final since Chelsea in 2008. Tottenham’s two previous Champions League away games against Dutch opposition ended in draws with a grand total of 10 goals, an average of 5 goals per game. Also, since the start of 2018, Spurs have won only one of their six Champions League away games, a 1-0 victory at Dortmund in this season’s round of 16 (D3 L2).

Ajax are winless in their last three Champions League home games (D2 L1). They could become the fourth team to reach the Champions League final with more away wins than home wins that same season, after Manchester Utd (2010/11), Juventus (2016/17) and Real Madrid (2017/18).

Ajax have already played 17 games this season in the Champions League (6 in the qualifiers, 11 in the group/knockout stages), more than any other team this season. They have only lost one of these 17 games, a 2-1 home defeat against Real Madrid in the round of 16.

Tottenham only had one shot on target in the first leg against Ajax, their joint-lowest total in a Champions League game.

Suspended in the first leg against Ajax, Son Heung-Min has scored 50 per cent of Tottenham’s goals in this season’s Champions League knockout stages (4 out of 8). He is the highest Asian goalscorer in the competition’s history (12 goals).

In terms of injury, Spurs defender Davinson Sanchez has been ruled out of tonight’s clash due to a thigh injury picked up on Saturday. Jan Vertonghen has been training and will wear a mask to protect his nose if he is passed fit to play against former club Ajax.

It looks like Harry Kane has failed in his bid to make a miraculous recovery from an ankle injury; Spurs have not officially ruled him out but he looks unlikely to make it, while Harry Winks is also definitely out.

Erik Lamela and Serge Aurier are both back from hamstring injuries and should be in the squad while Spurs are also boosted by the return of Heung-Min Son from suspension. But will they replicate Liverpool masterclass even with Son’s return, we shall know tonight.

So, whatever happens tonight, magic will surely be in the air as either a fresh youthful Ajax, will make history by reaching the final or Tottenham will create another magical English upset by reversing a deficit into an explosive surplus.

 

Samson Oyedeyi

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