With both Tottenham and Ajax working on Cinderella seasons, one might turn into a pumpkin after a Champions League semifinal second leg that promises drama and tension.
The Dutch side scored a 1-0 win in the first leg a week ago, a victory that felt like a triumph. That came on the heels of eliminating powerhouses Juventus and Real Madrid earlier in the tournament. They’ve once again mastered the “total football” style with crisp, inventive passing and startling efficiency, and could return to the final for the first time since 1996 by holding off Tottenham.
Spurs considered themselves lucky not to concede another goal on their home grounds and fall into a deeper hole headed toward the rematch in Amsterdam. For the second leg, though, scoring midfielder Son Heung-min will return from suspension, which will provide manager Mauricio Pochettino more depth. He navigated Tottenham past Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund to get this far. A win would go a long way toward helping the side shake off its “flaky Spurs” moniker, and could put Tottenham in its first Champions League final.
The winner will face Liverpool, which mounted a shocking rally in the second leg of its semifinal with Barcelona on Tuesday to move into the final for a second straight year. Liverpool will attempt to win the tournament for the first time since 2005 at the June 1 final in Madrid. It will be the first final since 2013 without a Spanish representative. There hasn’t been an all-Premier League final since 2008.
Players to watch
Son’s return is big news for Tottenham. With team captain and striker Harry Kane out with an ankle injury, Son scored two of his 20 goals in the dramatic and decisive second leg quarterfinal match against Manchester City.
Midfielder Dusan Tadic will be crucial for Ajax. In 53 appearances, he has 34 goals and 22 assists. He’s very much the beneficiary of the “total football” scheme which caused Tottenham so much trouble the first time around.
Source: Jacob Bogage