Tottenham Hotspur have a mountain to climb to reach the first-ever UEFA Champions League final in club history, but there are a few reasons for Mauricio Pochettino and Co. to be positive.
They lost 1-0 at home to Ajax on Tuesday and that in itself is a huge bonus as it could have been a much heavier defeat. Donny van de Beek’s early goal set the tone for a dominant first half display from Ajax, and although Spurs did improve and had a few chances, they just couldn’t impose themselves on the Dutch giants.
Below is a look at three reasons why Spurs should be hopeful of turning things around in the second leg in Amsterdam next Wednesday.
Son, Sissoko will be back
The former coming back will be a huge boost, especially away from home, as Spurs missed Son badly due to his suspension. The South Korean star ripped Man City apart on the counter and in Harry Kane‘s absence he has the ability to be a mobile focal of the attack. On Tuesday Fernando Llorente couldn’t link up Spurs’ attacking line and it was unfair to think he could. In midfield the return of Moussa Sissoko helped keep Spurs in this tie. He came on close to the end of the first half to replace the injured Jan Vertonghen and the Frenchman’s powerful funs helped drag his team through with just a one-goal defeat. Sissoko is no doubt the ‘comeback player of the year’ in the Premier League, and the fact he and Son are both available to play the full 90 minutes in the second leg is a massive bonus.
Pressure of home fans on Ajax
Now, this Ajax team is good, we know that. But there’s no doubting they’ve played away from home against Juventus and Real Madrid in the Champions League knockout round. Yes, they created and missed big chances against Juve and Real, but they ended up losing 2-1 to Real and drew 1-1 with Juve at home, then produced fine displays, like the one at Tottenham, away from home in the second legs to knock out those European heavyweights. It will be intriguing to see this young team (the second-youngest in the Champions League this season) cope with the pressure of an expectant home crowd.
Man City experience will ignite Spurs belief
Piggy backing off the intriguing task for Ajax’s stars playing at home, Spurs will also feed off their experience of going to Man City in the last round and getting by them. That was arguably a much tougher task than going to Ajax and getting a win by two goals, or at least winning 1-0 to take the game to extra time. Pochettino admitted he got his tactics wrong in the first leg and his players didn’t press high enough up the pitch. It is also highly unlikely that Tottenham will play as bad as they did in the opening 30 minutes in the first leg. Expect Spurs to come flying out of the traps in Amsterdam and they are at their best when they can press high and have the likes of Son, Alli and Eriksen flying forward. Good teams learn from their experiences. Great teams are able to replicate those stunning performances.