So here we go. We all hoped for Champions League football at the new White Hart Lane and here we are, six games in, a semi-final no less.
The quarter-final first leg win over Manchester City was a stupendous, dramatic affair, who new at the final whistle that the second leg would so comprehensively outdo it?
This game tonight has a lot to live up to.
Our squad is tired, battered, and in the last game at this ground, beaten. Saturday has little impact upon this game though, apart from to underline the thinness of what remains in terms of fit and sharp players. No Kane this evening of course, no Son, no Winks, no Aurier, no Lamela. A half ready, Wanyama, Sissoko and Dier, an out of sorts Dele, a fresh from minor injury Vertonghen. So that leaves first teamers Hugo, Trippier, Rose, Toby, Moura, Eriksen as fit and ready to go with Davies, Foyth, Walker-Peters, Llorente, Sanchez also in one piece.
Depending on Poch’s tactics and approach, some of these backup players will start but he’ll want the quality of his first choice selections where he can get it. Our experience in the competition in recent years especially this season has taught us to play the knock out rounds as 180 minutes of football. Very few teams will win the tie in the first half of the first game. Given the possibility of having at least Son back for the second leg, our manager will know that we stand a good chance of scoring in Holland, thus a decisive victory tonight isn’t the be all of everything.
We will start cagey. A clean sheet would be tremendous and given how many goals we’ve been conceding this season, it’s not a straightforward proposition. Ajax’s notorious fluidity in attack means that it’s oh so important that we keep a good shape and deny them space. I’d be tempted to concentrate on denying space and attempting to use Lucas’s speed on the break – as risk free approach as possible.
That’s not Pochettino’s way though. He’ll want possession and he’ll want to take advantage of that possession. Any edge to take to in to the second leg. Expect to have to buckle up and just try and enjoy the ride.
What a night it promises to be. Whatever happens, it’s been a triumph to get this far.
Let’s cheer them from start to finish, let’s let the Dutch know that they’ve been in a battle.
The officials are from Spain.
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