Much of the talk ahead of round one between Tottenham v. Ajax is on the big story, of how Tottenham and Ajax’s magical runs have led them to the UEFA Champions League semifinal.
Let’s take a closer look at the story within the story, at some of the key battles on the field that will determine the outcome of the game.
[READ: UCL Preview: Tottenham v. Ajax]
Frenkie de Jong v. Christian Eriksen
This is the obvious matchup, with the current Ajax midfielder facing the former Ajax creator. Eriksen will likely spend a considerable amount of energy tracking de Jong as he looks to hit passes wide and forward, as well as keep the ball moving. At the other end, Eriksen will have to use quick movement to create space around de Jong, who is a strong defender but isn’t known as a true No. 6, and could be beat on the dribble. It will be fascinating to see who comes out on top in this battle.
Danny Rose v. Hakim Ziyech
Along with de Jong and de Ligt, Ziyech is a Dutch-born player who the Netherlands probably wishes it could call up, playing as well as he ever has in his career. The 26-year-old has been tremendous as a winger, especially in the Champions League. He’ll next face Danny Rose and perhaps even Vertonghen. Rose will want to attack at will down the left wing, which could force the creative Ziyech to spend more time defending. However, if Ziyech slips past Rose and can find the ball in space down his right wing, Tottenham will be in big trouble.
Moura could be the x-factor for Tottenham up top, with no Son or Kane available. The speedy Brazilian has played well in a striker role over the past couple of months, and his speed could keep the centerback duo of Blind and de Ligt honest, as well as putting the attention on Lucas. That could in theory open the door for Llorente to find a pocket of space in the box on a cross from Rose or Kieran Trippier.