Tottenham v Ajax
Live on BT Sport 2
Match Odds: Tottenham 2.68/5, Ajax 3.02/1, The Draw 3.45
Dutch FA give advantage to Ajax
Few people would have predicted a Tottenham v Ajax semi-final at the start of this season's Champions League, but both sides are unquestionably here on merit, and no-one can complain about either getting easy draws.
Tottenham have eliminated Dortmund and Manchester City in the knockout stages, while Eric ten Hag's side have won away at Real Madrid and Juventus. Neither side should have any fears about competing on this stage.
The side have had very different preparations for this week's first leg. While Tottenham looked exhausted in a 1-0 home defeat to West Ham - their first loss at their new ground - Ajax were give the weekend off in order to help them prepare for this tie.
With both sides preferring to play a high-energy pressing game, that could prove crucial. Ajax, incidentally, have come on particularly strong in the second halves at both Real and Juventus.
In some ways, this is a classic Ajax side - good possession play, heavy pressing, 4-3-3, some promising graduates from the youth system. But in other ways there are differences: there are a couple of expensive signings in this side, and the key tactical concept from their performances against Real and Juve was bringing one of the wingers inside to overload the opposite flank, in stark contrast from their traditional approach of stretching play down both flanks.
This has generally involved attacking consistently down the right flank. Dusan Tadic drops off into a position between the lines but usually drifts towards the right, from where he regularly combines with right-winger Hakim Ziyech, who cuts inside and shoots dangerously. The real problem, though, comes from the fact that left-sided David Neres doesn't remotely stay on the left flank, and inside moves across to overload the right, this could cause Spurs, and Danny Rose in particular, serious problems and the England man could be a value bet to be shown a card if you can get around 4.03/1.
De Jong to pull the strings
In midfield, Donny van de Beek doesn't get the praise of some of his fellow youngsters but plays a crucial role in leading the press and breaking forward to the edge of the box. Lasse Schone plays an all-action role to the right, leaving Barcelona-bound Frenkie de Jong to sit deep, control play and sometimes drop back into the back four too.
With Ajax overloading the right, the left-sided width comes almost exclusively from Argentine international Nicolas Tagliafico, who makes sudden bursts forward. His zone is covered by left-sided centre-back Daley Blind, with 19-year-old captain Matthijs de Ligt providing the more traditional defensive qualities. Noussair Mazraoui plays right-back, with Andre Onana a classic Ajax goalkeeper, and happy playing out from the back.
Llorente to lead the line
Ajax have a fully-fit squad to choose from, whereas Spurs have serious selection problems. Harry Kane is still out injured, his natural deputy Son Heung-min is suspended, and Vincent Janssen isn't in the Champions League squad. With further concerns over Harry Winks and Moussa Sissoko, Pochettino is picking according to availability rather than tactics, and a 3-5-2 shape probably makes most sense here.
It seems likely that Fernando Llorente will lead the line, although there's a danger that he'll prove ineffective against Ajax's high defensive line, especially if the Dutch side dominate possession. Expect him to play up against Blind, rather than De Ligt. His closest support will presumably come from Lucas Moura running into the channels.
Dele Alli will also provide forward running, but seems likely to start in a deeper position, alongside Ajax old boy Christian Eriksen. Victor Wanyama will provide the midfield ball-winning, although he's looked badly short of mobility in recent weeks.
Ajax past v Ajax present
The wing-back roles should be filled by Rose and Kieran Trippier. You wonder, given Trippier's poor form this season, whether Ajax might flip their usual strategy and look to overload him rather than Rose. In the centre of defence will be three former Ajax players: Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld and Davinson Sanchez, who will have to be clever with their positioning against Tadic, who will drop back into midfield. Hugo Lloris may have to sweep up behind if Ajax push midfield runners on.
I fancy Ajax here. They've been hugely impressive in away wins at Juventus, and when you factor in their extra rest and the fact Spurs are without their main two goalscoring threats, I like the look of backing the visitors at 3.002/1.