Sports Monks

What Tottenham Need To Do To Qualify for The UEFA Champions League Final

Tottenham player team

Tottenham Hotspur travel to Amsterdam on Wednesday night to try to overturn a 1-0 deficit from the first of the 2 legged UEFA Champions League semi-final tie.

Donny Van De Beek put in a stellar performance and scored the solitary goal on the night of the first leg in London, and the Matthijs De Ligt led defence shut out the Spurs attackers to ensure the Dutch side did not concede any away goals. All in all, it was an excellent team display by the young Ajax side, and they look good value for money for their 1-0 lead.

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino was hopeful of defender Jan Vertonghen’s return to fitness, after the latter suffered a serious collision with Toby Alderweireld, which left him bloodied and concussed. The Belgian missed the weekend game against Bournemouth as a precaution, but hopes to be cleared by the medical staff ahead of the Ajax game. That could be a huge boost for Spurs, for Davinson Sanchez is reportedly struggling with a small niggling injury of his own.

A return for Son Heung-Min following suspension will be greeted with huge cheers by the Spurs faithful, for they looked quite lost and purposeless in their attack in his absence. Son scored thrice against Manchester City to put Spurs into the semi-finals.

Ajax have a complete squad to choose from, and I expect them to stick with the same starting XI that they sent out in the first leg.

So, here’s what Spurs must do to boost their chances of qualification:

  • Start a back 4

Pochettino starting with 3 central defenders at home against Ajax sowed the seeds of Tottenham’s downfall in the 1st leg. With the threat from the wing backs cleverly neutralised by the Ajax defence, and the extra man in midfield that the visitors got, it was chaos for Tottenham. Only when Moussa Sissoko came on did they pose any threat at all. Regardless of the fitness of Sanchez and Vertonghen, only 1 of them must start alongside Alderweireld.

  • Man marking – Donny Van De Beek & Dusan Tadic

Van De Beek was allowed to drift between the lines untracked in the first leg; he linked up with Neres, helped out De Jong, became the furthest forward and so on. His influence on the game was massive, and it is of paramount importance that he be neutralised by Spurs. Victor Wanyama perhaps could be asked to man-mark him. Similarly, Tadic’s influence will also need to be stifled likewise, him being the main out ball for Ajax. Alderweireld will need to be at his sharpest to keep the former Southampton man in check

  • Convert set-pieces

Tottenham squandered 3 big chances in the home fixture, all 3 of them coming from set-pieces, and falling to Llorente and Alderweireld. That inefficiency cannot be repeated if Spurs are to qualify. Eriksen and Trippier’s deliveries will need to be met firmly, but more importantly, clinically. Given how well De Ligt and Blind dealt with the Spurs attackers in London, set pieces may offer Tottenham’s greatest threat.

  • Bench Fernando Llorente

Fernando Llorente offers a great outball, and his physical stature makes him an excellent target man. However, his lack of agility and his lack of pace make him someone Tottenham could do without in this game, given the urgency of their challenge, and how all onus is on them to take the game to Ajax, and press and hassle their men in possession. Lucas Moura and Son Heung-Min are the ideal candidates to start.

Tottenham’s season hinges on Wednesday night’s result. A win will set up a date in Madrid, likely with Barcelona, for the title of Europe’s best. A loss or a scoreless draw will render another promising season trophyless. Surely, there’s a limit to how many of those the likes of Eriksen, Alli and Son can take before their heads start to be turned by Europe’s elite.

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