Ajax has nothing to fear vs. Tottenham after ousting Real Madrid and Juventus from the Champions League.
Ajax has taken everybody by surprise in this season's Champions League, unexpectedly knocking out two of Europe's heavyweights in Real Madrid and Juventus en route to the semifinals.
Erik ten Hag is doing a remarkable job at the helm and taken his side to the next level. The Ajax manager is not grinding out victories against the big names. Instead, his side is doing it in style, unleashing and expressing itself, which makes its football so exciting to watch.
Many people had written Ajax off following its 2-1 home defeat to Los Blancos earlier in the competition, only for the club to come back fighting at the Santiago Bernabeu and stun the world with a 4-1 rout against Real Madrid in the second leg of the round of 16.
Next came Juventus and Cristiano Ronaldo. Despite a 1-1 draw with Juventus at the Johan Cruijff ArenA, eyes were cast on the reverse fixture in Turin. Ronaldo put the Italian champions ahead on 28 minutes, but Ajax's young stars had other ideas. Donny van de Beek equalized, and club captain Matthijs de Ligt popped up with a header to put the underdogs in dreamland 10 minutes before halftime, enough to send them through.
With all that said, can Ajax go one step further and book a place in the Champions League final in Madrid?
Here are four reasons why ten Hag's side can do just that:
1. The Dutch FA Granted Them Time Off
Ajax was handed a major boost before the clash against Tottenham, having been granted a free week in order to prepare for the first leg against Spurs in London.
The Dutch FA (KNVB) has recognized the fixture congestion in and around the two legs and have postponed Ajax's Eredivise matches until matchweek 33 in the Netherlands. A statement from the Dutch FA read: “It is being done to help Dutch football as a whole, because it means so much to be successful in Europe.”
On the other hand, Mauricio Pochettino's side has a congested fixture list of four games in 12 days that includes the two legs of the matchup. Many Spurs fans have questioned the English FA as to whether they will get their fixtures moved. This is highly unlikely and could be a factor that could play into Ajax's hands.
2. Ajax Has Nothing to Fear
Ajax has already exceeded expectations at this stage and will use its confidence and go into both legs of the tie knowing it has what it takes to reach the final.
Frenkie de Jong, who will join Barcelona this summer, and de Ligt, who is expected to follow suit in leaving Ajax, have both played a huge part in repaying the faith shown in them by the Dutch side.
Spurs are oozing in confidence on the back of their victory over Manchester City, but they should be wary of an Ajax side that converts goal-scoring opportunities in style. Players such as Brazilian David Neres, Dušan Tadić and Van de Beek have been instrumental in the club's fortunes and no doubt Europe’s big guns will come calling this summer should they advance to Madrid. For now though, focus and togetherness are key attributes for this exciting team.
2. Tottenham's Defense Is Lacking
Questions have been raised over how good the Spurs backline actually is. Pochettino's side was vulnerable at the back against City. Kieran Trippier is expected to move on this summer, having underperformed throughout the 2018/19 campaign.
Next up for the 28-year-old is a battle with Ajax’s in-form Neres. Trippier will have a tough task at trying to stop the 22-year-old over both legs. Both wings are areas Ajax can exploit and cause Tottenham major problems.
Neres, the high-flying Brazilian, also scored in Ajax’s sensational 4-1 win away to Real Madrid in the last-16 and is enjoying an impressive campaign that has not gone unnoticed around Europe.
4. No Son Heung-min or Harry Kane
Following the injury to Kane, the burden has been left on Son, and he has been instrumental in Spurs' progress through the competition, netting four times. The 26-year-old South Korean forward is set to miss the first-leg due to suspension, though. He picked up a yellow card in the victory over Pep Guardiola's side at the Ethiad on 48 minutes, his third of the tournament. Tottenham will have to rely on Lucas Moura and Fernando Llorente to carry the threat to Ajax at home.
Kane is expected to be ruled out for the remainder off the season due to an ankle injury picked up in the first-leg against City, so, with Son out and Kane sidelined for both matches, Ajax will no doubt fancy its chances of keeping its dream alive.