Ajax v Tottenham: Dutch double on the cards

 Mauricio Pochettino Tottenham manager
Spurs' form will have given Mauricio Pochettino a headache
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Ajax can end Spurs' Champions League hopes with another victory over them on Wednesday night in Amsterdam, says Andy Schooler.

"Anyone who’s seen Ajax in the Champions League knockout phase must surely conclude they are one of Europe’s best sides, yet despite going up against one with all sort of problems right now, they are on offer at odds-against to notch another victory."

Back Ajax to win @ 2.22

Ajax v Tottenham
Wednesday, 20:00
Live on BT Sport 2

Repeat show

Last week I made the case for Ajax winning in London. They duly did and I see no reason to expect anything different eight days on.

Ajax flew out of the blocks in the first leg and could have been more than just one goal up at half time. They successfully mixed up their approach play; there were plenty of direct balls into the forwards as well as the expected incisive passing, something which may have thrown Spurs.

The Londoners certainly improved as the game went on, Moussa Sissoko making a significant difference once he replaced the injured Jan Vertonghen, but they still failed to really trouble keeper Andre Onana, producing just a single shot on target in the entire match.

The fact they finished stronger than they started will be one positive to take out of the game, particularly given Spurs have looked somewhat heavy-legged of late, but Saturday's defeat at Bournemouth won't have helped, specifically the nature of it.

While the actual result mattered little come the end of the weekend (only a goals miracle will now prevent Spurs finishing in the Premier League's top four), the fact that they played half the game with nine men means many of their players who will take to the field in Amsterdam worked much harder than anticipated.

The likes of Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli had to put in a big shift as Spurs almost clung on for a goalless draw and you wonder how much that has taken out of them.

At least Heung-min Son (one of those sent off on Saturday) will be available as his European suspension has now expired, although whether defensive rock Vertonghen is OK remains to be seen and Spurs will still be without the likes of top scorer Harry Kane and Harry Winks.

The fact is Spurs are coming into a must-win game with an injury-hit team having suffered nine defeats in their last 10 away games - a woeful record for a club of their stature. Overall, they've lost nine of their last 15 in all competitions.

Their approach is hard to call.

They enjoyed a fantastic aggregate victory over Manchester City in the last round, despite losing the second leg 4-3, but unlike that night at the Etihad, the home team don't have to come out chasing the game.

That 'honour' is with the visitors and perhaps the way they largely managed to contain Ajax in the second half last week will lead Mauricio Pochettino to setting up fairly defensively, looking to grab a goal on the break, something which looks more achievable with Son back in the line-up. He bagged two at Man City.

However, I'm not convinced that they will be capable of keeping out the home team, who will still come forward - sitting back to defend a lead simply isn't the way they play. Even if it is a more defensive effort, Ajax have the pace and passing ability to make the most of their breakaway opportunities.

Ajax's contrasting form

Ajax won't go too crazy about piling forward but we saw for a period last week how they are capable of cutting through opponents and while they didn't beat either Real Madrid or Juventus in the home leg of this competition earlier in the season, they gave both a good game and certainly created plenty of chances in both matches.

In contrast to Spurs, Ajax rather breezed through the weekend which is saying something given they were actually playing in the Dutch Cup final on Sunday.

Willem II were brushed aside 4-0 with at least a couple of players expected to appear in this game left out altogether and others afforded the luxury of not having to play the full 90 minutes. Boss Erik ten Hag also reported no injuries afterwards.

Having completed the first leg of a potential Treble, Ajax have now won 15 of their last 17 games, while at home this term they've lost only once, winning 24 and drawing four.

Odds-against value

Anyone who's seen them in the Champions League knockout phase must surely conclude they are one of Europe's best sides, yet despite going up against one with all sort of problems right now, they are on offer at odds-against to notch another victory.

A home win at 2.226/5 makes plenty of appeal in the win-draw-win market, even if it's not a result Ajax absolutely require.

Spurs are 3.55/2 to gain the win they do need, with the draw at 3.814/5. Neither is for me.

Unders approach?

In the goal markets, we're back in traditional second-leg pricing territory with over 2.5 being down to 1.768/11 after last week's virtual 50/50 split. Under is offered at 2.285/4 which could be a bit of value if Spurs do adopt that safety-first approach.

As for both teams to score, that's at a short-enough 1.654/6 with the 'no' option a 2.466/4 chance.

With the short-priced options lacking in appeal, it may just be worth a small play on Nicolas Tagliafico to score at any time.

Nico time

The Ajax left-back has a decent enough return of six goals in his 43 games this season and they've not simply been token goals in big Eredivisie wins - three of them have come in the Champions League (all at home), including a late equaliser against Bayern Munich, with another in the Dutch Cup semi-final.

Spurs' Kieran Trippier had all sorts of problems down that side of the pitch in the first leg, continuing a disappointing season for him, and Ajax can be expected to target that area again.

Tagliafico may well get more licence to get forward than he did in the first leg and if that's the case his odds of 14/1 will look a tad long.

Same Game Multi

The Ajax win/Tagliafico to score double works out at a price just over 24 and that may prove a more tempting way of getting with the Argentine full-back.

Opta fact

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: it was Ajax in 1995-96, the Dutch team losing 1-0 at home against Panathinaikos before winning 3-0 away.

Champions League verdict: James Horncastle on this week's semi-final second legs

Andy Schooler's P/L 2018/19

Staked: 76pts
Returned: 84.94pts
P/L: +8.94pts

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