- Massive week of UCL football awaits
- The underdogs clash in North London
- Ajax offers the value
Next Tuesday, April 30, 2019, sees the clash of the underdogs, as Tottenham and Ajax meet in the first leg of this season’s UEFA Champions League semifinal at the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium at 3:00 pm EST.
In bookies’ terms, these two are outsiders. By contrast, the Barcelona vs Liverpool semifinal is one between two clubs with recent European pedigree and who have been among the favorites for this year’s competition from the word go.
Tottenham vs Ajax Semifinal Leg 1 – Odds
|Team||Spread||Moneyline||Total||Odds To Qualify|
|Tottenham Hotspur||pk, -1/2 (+100)||+131||O 2.5 (-118)||-110|
|Ajax||pk, +1/2 (-116)||+205||U 2.5 (+102)||+120|
*Odds taken on April 25, 2019
Tottenham being priced as slight favorites is recognition of them having a squad with more European experience – and arguably some bigger names – but the Dutch have youth and fearlessness on their side.
Battle of the Underdogs
Ajax, while once a force in European football, have not troubled the elite since the mid-1970s and had to negotiate three gruelling qualifying rounds before even entering the competition proper this season. Tottenham – who have never won Europe’s big prize – last lifted a European trophy in 1984.
— Oliver Puymann (@OPuymann) April 23, 2019
Both teams will draw on the experiences of startling quarterfinal triumphs, with both overcoming significant odds and having to play the away leg second, to qualify for this semifinal.
A Dutch Lesson in Turin
For Ajax, a draw in Amsterdam with Juventus left them with what looked a slim chance of success in the second leg, one that looked even slimmer when Cristiano Ronaldo gave the Turin side the lead just before the half-hour mark.
But this Ajax team are relentless and without fear, and took just four minutes to equalise through Donny van de Beek.
FT Ajax 1-1 Juventus
David Neres' goal cancels out Cristiano Ronaldo's opener and it's all to play for in Turin.
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) April 10, 2019
The second-half was one of those that will be looked back upon as an exemplar of how to manage a second-leg tie in European football.
In short, Ajax was sensational. They kept the ball, it was neat, it was incisive, and for long spells, they had a hugely experienced Juventus team penned back in their own defensive third.
— Sport (@MatrizSport) April 20, 2019
In the end, it took just a single goal – a towering header from 19-year-old-captain Matthijs de Ligt – to seal the deal. But it was no more than they deserved and, in fact, the Italians could have had no complaints if the margin of victory had been two or three.
|5/10||Number of wins in 2019 UCL / Number of games||5/10|
|17/1.7||Number of goals scored in 2019 UCL / Per game||19/1.9|
|14/1.4||Number of goals conceded in 2019 UCL / Per game||10/1.0|
|3||Number of European trophies won||8|
|14||Number of domestic trophies won||59|
|7||Number of European semifinals||13|
|147||Total goal attempts in 2019 UCL||159|
|5081/85%||Total passes completed (UCL 2019) / Pass completion||5301/84%|
|26.3||Average age of squad||23.4|
Tottenham’s route to the semifinal was rather more dramatic.
After narrowly beating Manchester City in the first-leg at home – thanks to a second-half goal from Son Heung-min – they headed to the Etihad Stadium with the slenderest of leads. What unfolded was arguably the most dramatic 90+ minutes of Champions League football there has ever been.
— Tottenham Hotspur FC (@_THFC_) April 23, 2019
Drama at The Etihad
In a seven-goal thriller, City thought they had won it through a Raheem Sterling goal in added-time. However, the goal was ruled out thanks to VAR (video assistant referee) for an offside and Spurs, despite losing 4-3 on the night, went through having scored more away goals.
Skill & Experience vs Belief & Bravery
All of which sets up a fascinating semifinal, one that really could go either way.
On one hand there is Pochettino’s Tottenham, who have, on paper at least, players with more experience and European know-how, while Erik ten Hag’s Ajax play an exciting brand of football that, mixed with their inherent belief and bravery, has also seen them win emphatically in Real Madrid’s Bernabéu Stadium.
They’ll not be phased by the intimidating atmosphere in the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Tuesday.
The most expensive player in the Tottenham squad was Moussa Sissoko, who cost £30m. They were also without Harry Kane.
Manchester City had 12 players in their 18-man squad that cost £30m+.
— bet365 (@bet365) April 17, 2019
Also in Ajax’s favor is that the Dutch FA have arranged free weekends for them ahead of both legs.
Whereas, Tottenham will have high-octane, high-pressure Premier League games only a few days before each of the two games. And, in the final countdown, we think this could be significant.
— Football News 24 (@Footballnews090) April 23, 2019
Battle of the Coaches
Both teams play in a similar style, and it will be a technical game that pits two of the world’s best young coaches against each other, but we feel the extra freshness and zip in the Ajax players will be a huge advantage.
So, the first leg will be tight and +220 for the draw looks to us to be where the value is, and while the second leg will again be close, we see the Dutch edging it by the odd goal.
Our Leg 1 pick: Draw (+220)