Spurs must tame young Ajax lions to extend Champions League adventure
Ajax's unlikely ascension to European football's top table will face its sternest test yet on Wednesday when Tottenham travel to Amsterdam intent on reversing a 1-0 defeat from the UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg.
Ajax are aiming to become the first team from outside Europe's 'big five' leagues to reach a Champions League Final since Jose Mourinho's FC Porto in 2003-04. To do so they will have to withstand the challenge of a Tottenham side appearing somewhat ragged as their season reaches its climax.
The Dutch team, currently dueling with PSV for this season's Eredivisie title, had a near-perfect first leg in Tottenham's plush new home in North London last week, stealing away from the English capital with a precious away goal and a clean sheet of their own.Also on rt.com Assured Ajax beat tame Spurs to take control of Champions League semi-final
Donny van Beek's strike came after some calamitous defending in the Tottenham rearguard, affording the young Dutchman acres of space within the Spurs box to pick his spot and slot the ball past Hugo Lloris.
Spurs featured a shot of former Ajax players in the starting lineup last week and will once again look to the likes of Christian Eriksen to be the scourge of his old team.
While still shorn of the attacking talents of captain and top scorer Harry Kane, Mauricio Pochettino will at least welcome back key man Son Heung-min, suspended for the first leg, to add some much-needed firepower to his attack.
To advance to an all-Englan final with Liverpool, Tottenham will have to outwork a young side whom established European greats Bayern Munich, Benfica, Real Madrid and Juventus have tried and failed to beat in this season's campaign.Also on rt.com Dutch delight: Why Ajax's remarkable Champions League run is so welcome
Ajax last won this competition in 1995 with a side featuring a host of homegrown talent such as Edgar Davids, Marc Overmars, Clarence Seedorf, the de Boer brothers and Patrick Kluivert, who scored the goal which defeated AC Milan in the final in Vienna.
This time around swap those names out for Frenkie De Jong, Matthijs De Ligt, Hakim Ziyech and David Neres (and others) and you have the nucleus of a team intent on repeating the success of 24 years ago, even if they most likely won't be around next season to repeat the achievement as a host of Europe's top clubs continue to sniff out their young talent.Also on rt.com 'Lessons about how football should be played': Ajax praised as remarkable UCL run continues vs Spurs
Spurs will know that a single goal will cancel out the away strike that the Dutch side scored in the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last week, and any further strikes will leave Ajax with an increasingly uphill task to navigate.
This season's competition has already provided a number of upsets, with Ajax masterminding several of them already. One more performance showcasing the considerable guile and skill and that this has exhibited thus far in the competition could be enough to send Erik ten Hag's side to the final - and in doing so, rewrite the conventional narrative that Europe's big spending, oil-rich sides have an exclusive grip on Europe's top prize.