Tottenham welcomes Ajax in UCL semifinal first leg

Written By: BBC/Hunja Muraya
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Champions League semi-finalists Tottenham are “living a dream”, says manager Mauricio Pochettino.

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Spurs host Dutch league leaders Ajax – who have knocked out Real Madrid and Juventus – in the first leg of their tie on Tuesday (20:00 BST).

It is Tottenham’s first Champions League semi-final, though they reached the last four of the 1962 European Cup, losing to eventual winners Benfica.

“You need to set your dreams to infinity and beyond,” said Pochettino.

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“When you achieve things it’s because you dream them. To be in the Champions League semi-final with Tottenham was a dream five years ago – but we’re living the dream.

“You know we must always dream for the moon if you want to get something in the sky.”

Tottenham knocked out Premier League leaders Manchester City in the Champions League quarter-finals

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Tottenham picked up only one point from their first three group games – but then wins over PSV Eindhoven and Inter Milan, and an away draw at Barcelona, took them into the knockout stages.

“We have a spirit in the team that we can achieve anything and all is possible – that’s our strength,” added Argentine Pochettino.

“We have a great opportunity to be here playing the semi-final. It has not happened often.

“We must show respect for our opponents and Ajax fully deserve to be where they are. It’s going to be a very competitive game.”

Spurs will be without top goalscorer Harry Kane, who is out with an ankle ligament injury, and fellow forward Son Heung-min, who is suspended.

Midfielder Harry Winks has had groin surgery and is not expected to play again this season.

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However, midfielder Moussa Sissoko is back in training after missing three games with a groin problem, while defender Jan Vertonghen is set to return after being rested for the 1-0 loss to West Ham in the Premier League on Saturday.

With Kane and Son both unavailable, Lucas Moura is set to feature.

“It’s a big moment for me,” said the Brazilian. “It’s a dream to play in this competition. I need to enjoy this opportunity and play my best.”

Moura said he hoped Kane would be fit for the second leg in Amsterdam on 8 May, but Pochettino said he did not expect that to happen.

“Harry Kane is doing well, his rehab has been good,” said the manager. “He is starting to run a little bit but we cannot create an idea that we cannot achieve. He’s in a good place so we will see what happens.”

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Ajax, ahead of PSV Eindhoven on goal difference at the top of the Dutch Eredivisie, last played in the Champions League semi-finals in 1996-97.

Erik ten Hag’s side twice drew with German giants Bayern Munich in the group phase and have eliminated Real Madrid – winners of the competition in four of the past five seasons – and Italian champions Juventus in the knockout phase.

“We want to continue this curve,” said Ten Hag.

“It’s amazing that we’re in the Champions League semi-finals. Nobody could have predicted at the beginning of the season that a Dutch team would end up in the Champions League semi-finals.

“We have achieved something – but we want to do more. We don’t want to rest on our laurels.”

 

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