Spurs’ Vertonghen fit for second leg against Ajax

 
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Tottenham’s Jan Vertonghen tried to play on after suffering a head injury in the first leg but then had to be substituted

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Tottenham defender Jan Vertonghen could play in the Champions League semi-final second leg against Ajax as Spurs look to overturn a one-goal deficit.

Vertonghen suffered a head injury in a nasty collision with team-mate Toby Alderweireld and Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana during the first leg in London.

But tests revealed that Vertonghen had not been concussed and he may play in Amsterdam wearing a protective mask.

Ajax won the first leg 1-0 thanks to Donny van de Beek’s first-half goal.

The winners will play either Barcelona or Liverpool in the final in Madrid on 1 June, with the Spanish club leading 3-0 after the first leg.

Team news

Son Heung-min will return for Tottenham after missing the first leg through suspension and is expected to play up front with England striker Harry Kane still out with an ankle injury.

Vertonghen could replace Davinson Sanchez, who picked up a thigh injury in the 1-0 loss at Bournemouth on Saturday, with winger Erik Lamela and full-back Serge Aurier both available after hamstring injuries.

Tottenham have had an extra day to prepare as Ajax beat Willem II 4-0 in the final of the Dutch Cup on Sunday, but Erik ten Hag said he had a fully-fit squad to choose from with forward David Neres available after recovering from a foot injury.

‘I’ll go home’ if Spurs win the Champions League this season – Pochettino

‘The tie is still open’

Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino remains confident that his side could reach a Champions League final for the first time.

He said: “The negative result in the first leg obviously makes it more difficult, but the tie is still open. We know we need to win and perform to our best. It’s an exciting moment for us.

“Nobody thought we would have the possibility in the last week of the season to reach the final of the Champions League. Now we need to enjoy this moment and believe.”

Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris said the tie still remained a “massive opportunity for the club”.

“We’re all excited to be a part of the semi-finals of the Champions League, but we don’t want to stop here,” he said. “We need to play full of energy and full of desire.

“Ajax have a little advantage and the only way to go through is to win – and that’s the only way to prepare for the game.

“We need to try to find the right energy and try to learn from the first leg.”

‘Healthy tension is good’

Ajax drew with Bayern Munich twice in the group stage, beat 2018 European champions Real Madrid in the last 16 and then eliminated Juventus in the quarter-finals.

The Dutch league leaders will reach the final if they avoid defeat against Tottenham, but coach ten Hag says his side will not sit back and play defensively.

“We need to win this match, that will be our mindset,” said Ten Hag. “We have to stick to our own strengths.”

“We’re confident we can do it, we’re fit and eager.

“A few people who knew this level of success said it would still be possible for a Dutch team to reach the Champions League final; people like Johan Cruyff, Louis van Gaal and [Ajax director] Marc Overmars. It’s up to us to prove them right.”

Ajax defender Daley Blind, who played for Manchester United when they beat Ajax in the 2017 Europa League final, returned to the Amsterdam club last year.

“I’m not nervous,” said Blind. “I think a little bit of healthy tension is good and comparable to the other matches.

“Just like the other games, and the group phase, they’re all important matches against big opponents and you have to make the best of it during preparation. You have to do that yourself.”

Match facts

  • Only one of the 17 previous teams to lose the first leg at home in a Champions League/European Cup semi-final tie has progressed to the final – Ajax in 1995-96, the Dutch team losing 1-0 at home against Panathinaikos before winning 3-0 away.
  • Ajax will attempt to reach their first Champions League/European Cup final since 1996 (losing finalists against Juventus) while Tottenham would become the 40th different team in Champions League/European Cup history to make the showpiece game, and the first to reach their first such final since Chelsea in 2008.
  • Tottenham’s two previous Champions League away games against Dutch opposition ended in draws with a grand total of 10 goals. Also, since the start of 2018, Spurs have won only one of their six Champions League away games, a 1-0 victory at Dortmund in this season’s round of 16 (drawn three, lost two).
  • Ajax’s joint-heaviest home defeat against English opposition was inflicted by Tottenham, in September 1981. Spurs won 3-1 at the Olympisch Stadion, courtesy of goals from Mark Falco (two) and Ricky Villa (one).
  • Ajax are winless in their last three Champions League home games (drawn two, lost one). They could become the fourth team to reach the Champions League final with more away wins than home wins that same season, after Manchester United (2010-11), Juventus (2016-17) and Real Madrid (2017-18).
  • Qualifiers included, Ajax have already played 17 games this season in the Champions League (six in the qualifiers, 11 in the group/knockout stages), more than any other team this season. They have only lost one of these 17 games, a 2-1 home defeat against Real Madrid in the round of 16.
  • Tottenham only had one shot on target in the first leg against Ajax, their joint-lowest total in a Champions League game.
  • Among the 2018-19 Champions League semi-finalists, Ajax are the only club to have scored in every game in the competition this season.
  • Hakim Ziyech has scored or assisted a goal in four of Ajax’s five Champions League knockout games this season (two goals, two assists). He set up Donny van de Beek for Ajax’s goal in the first leg against Tottenham.
  • Suspended in the first leg against Ajax, Son Heung-min has scored 50% of Tottenham’s goals in this season’s Champions League knockout stages (four out of eight). He is the highest Asian goalscorer in the competition’s history (12 goals).

‘Tottenham not out of it’ – statistical analysis

Simon Gleave, head of sports analysis, Gracenote, said: “Tottenham may have lost the first leg of this tie 1-0 at home but they are not totally out of it yet.

He said: “The chance that Spurs will reach this year’s Champions League final in Madrid has reduced to around 29% according to the Euro Club index.

“Tottenham’s chance of winning this season’s Champions League has declined to around 5% but the club’s chance of lifting this trophy has only been higher than that once during the whole competition – before the first leg of this tie.”

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