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Spurs Odyssey Champions League Preview - Spurs v Ajax Amsterdam, 30.04.19

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Spurs' record in Europe:-
The official crest of Tottenham Hotspur
U.E.F.A Champions League
 P  W   D   L   F - A
35 16   8  11  65 - 47
European Cup
P   W   D   L   F - A
8   4   1   3  21 - 13
(Semi-Finalists 1962)
European Cup Winners Cup
P   W   D   L   F - A
33  20  5   8  65 - 34
(Winners 1963)
UEFA Cup/Europa League
 P    W   D   L   F - A
140  78  36  26  276-121 
(Winners 1972, 1984
 Finalists 1974)
The club logo of Ajax Amsterdam
P    W   D   L   F - A
216 118 50  48  427-215

Can we win our biggest game in years?

Obviously, this is the biggest game so far at our new stadium, which has now hosted not only a Champions League quarter-final against possible domestic treble winners Manchester City, but which now has a semi-final to stage in our fantastic arena.

I think Glenn Hoddle said when he was interviewed at half time on Saturday that this was the biggest game at White Hart Lane since the 1984 UEFA Cup Final, which he sadly missed through injury. By now, most Spurs fans know that the only other time we reached an equivalent European semi-final was in 1962, when we were knocked out by Benfica.

Now, hampered by injuries and one suspension, we have to face a youthful and exciting Ajax side who have taken Europe by storm this season, beating two of the pre-season favourites for this tournmanent (Real Madrid and Juventus) in the last two rounds. Similarly, we beat Borussia Dortmund at home and away, and Manchester City in a fabulous away goals quarter-final win. Whilst fans of both teams might not have believed that this meeting in a semi-final was on the cards, who can doubt our right to be here?

The big question is - can we win our biggest game in years? We will be missing our top two goalscorers - Harry Kane (24) and the suspended Son Heung-min (20), who have provided 44 of the 98 goals we have scored all season in all competitions. Our next highest scorer is Lucas Moura (12), who did score our vital equaliser in Barcelona in December, followed by Fernando Llorente (8), who scored the crucial third goal at The Etihad two weeks ago. Both will surely start tomorrow.

The team news confirms the continuing absence of Serge Aurier and sadly Harry Winks (it has now been announced that he has today had an operation for a groin injury) but enticingly states that both Jan Vertonghen and Moussa Sissoko will be assessed tomorrow. I personally feel confident that Jan will play, but I think the Sissoko situation is more doubtful. Both did train today though. Kieran Trippier was rested on Saturday and is surely a definite starter. Apart from that niggling doubt regarding Vertonghen, our remaining former Ajax contingent Alderweireld, Eriksen, and Sanchez are all likely to play as Spurs will probably opt for a 3-4-3 formation.

"Super" Jan Vertonghen was signed from Ajax in 2012 and has now made 209 Premier League appearances for Spurs, scoring 5 league goals. Jan has made no less than 50 European appearances for us, and is only one beind Hugo Lloris. They have the highest number of appearances of current players. Only Steve Perryman (64) and Aaron Lennon (58) have made more European appearances for the Lilywhites. Jan's Ajax career began in 2006, and he made a total of 155 league appearances, scoring 23 league goals. Martin Jol, who managed Ajax between 2009 and 2011, describes Vertonghen as "his player" claiming the credit for turning Jan from a left back and midfielder into a centre-back at Ajax. Jan still plays at left back for his country of course, and it has to be said that one of his best games this season was at left wing-back at home against Dortmund, when he scored a great goal too!

Eriksen signed for us from the Dutch club a year later than Jan, and scored 23 goals in 113 league games for Ajax. He now has 204 Premier League appearances for us and 48 league goals. Christian has made 43 European appearances for us, and when interviewed after the City game at the Etihad described this meeting as a "fairy tale".

Toby Alderweireld came to us in 2015, signed from Atletico Madrid, after he had a loan spell at Southampton. Toby played 128 league games for his first club - Ajax. Davinson Sanchez was snapped up by Spurs nearly 2 years ago when he had made 32 league appearances for Ajax in 2016/17.

Paul Coyte's half-time guest tomorrow is Rafa van der Vaart, a great Spurs favourite who took part in the pre-season "Legends" test event. Ajax was Rafa's boyhood club and he scored 52 league goals in 117 appearances before moving to Hamburg, followed by Real Madrid.

Ajax are a youthful and exciting side who have caught they eye of many observers this season. They lead the Eredivisie on goal difference from PSV with whom we drew away and against whom we won at Wembley in our Group phase this season. Ajax have had the benefit of a weekend off last weekend, granted by their league. 21 year old midfielder Frenkie De Jong has already been signed by no less a side than Barcelona for the sum of 65 million. 19 year old defender Matthijs De Ligt was linked - mainly by hopeful Spurs fans - with a move to Tottenham last year. De Ligt scored the Ajax winner away to Juventus in the quarter-final.

Spurs fans are familiar with Dusan Tadic (Ajax's top league goalscorer), signed from Southampton, and Daley Blind, who returned home from Manchester United last year. Brazilian winger David Neres Campos has caught my eye, and has scored 12 goals in all games this season.

Ajax are of course a club with great pedigree. They are the club of the world-wide legend Johan Cruyff. they are 4 time winners of the European Cup/Champions League, beating AC Milan in 1995 thanks to a Patrick Kluivert goal. They are a club with whom Spurs have an affinity with regards to the Jewish connection. See Which club is more Jewish?. They are a club we beat 6-1 on aggregate in the 1981 European Cup Winners-Cup.

Can we win our biggest game in years? Well, yes we can. Despite our difficulties, we have to trust that Pochettino has a plan, and that our players will give a performance fitting of the occasion. A clean sheet would be marvellous, just as it was against Manchester City. In that situation, I'd take either a 1-0 or 2-0 win in the hope of an away goal next week when Son returns.

Now that our team has played in Europe for 7 consecutive seasons and 12 of the last 14 seasons, it is inevitable that we will see familiar faces when it comes to the man in the middle. This is the case for tomorrow's game as our officials (all from Spain) are led by Antonio Mateu Lahoz, now in charge of a Spurs game in Europe for the fifth time. Indeed we have already seen Snr Lahoz this year as he took charge of our 3-0 home win against Borussia Dortmund. As he is aged 42, I expect we will see plenty of this referee in the future too!

"It was Twenty Years ago today!" - On May 1st 1999, Ledley King made his Spurs debut (at left back) as a second half substitute in a 3-2 defeat at Liverpool.

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