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Ajax stands in way of all English Champions League final

Mauricio Pochettino is attempting to lead Tottenham Hotspur into the Champions League final for the first time.
Mauricio Pochettino is attempting to lead Tottenham Hotspur into the Champions League final for the first time. Reuters/Andrew Couldridge

Ajax entertain Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday night in Amsterdam with a chance to reach their first Champions League final since 1996 and prevent an all English showdown at the Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid on 1 June.

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Ajax take a 1-0 lead into the second leg of the semi-final. Donny van de Beek scored the only goal of the game at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on 30 April to give the Dutch side the edge.

But following Liverpool's comeback from a three-goal deficit to defeat Barcelona and advance to the final, a solitary strike will appear fragile.

"We are living a dream," said Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino ahead of the second leg.

"Five years ago when I arrived, the aim was to reduce the gap to the top four and then to have the possibility to play in the Champions League.

"I think nobody would believe we would be playing in the Champions League three seasons in a row and competing at this stage."

Chance

Tottenham last reached the semi-final of European club football's most prestigious competition in 1962 when it was called the European Cup. That side lost to Benfica.

Ajax won the European Cup three times on the trot in the 1970s and they claimed the Champions League in 1995 with a surprise 1-0 win over AC Milan.

Nearly a quarter of a century later, Ajax have a chance to emulate a team that included Edwin van der Saar and Marc Overmars who are now, respectively, chief executive and sporting director of the club.

Ajax have already claimed the Dutch Cup and are top of the Eredivise with two games remaining.

Defender Daley Blind, who returned to the club from Manchester United at the start of the season admitted that celebrations after the Cup final were muted.

"Most of the celebrations were on the pitch and afterwards we celebrated in the stadium with the fans," he said. "We knew what was coming, it is clear that the semi-final was in our thoughts."

Ajax coach Erik ten Hag said his side would approach the second leg with a similar mentality to the opening match.

"We're going to play as if it were 0-0. Why should we change our style? Ajax is all about going forward and I believe that the best way to get what we want is to keep to our principles."

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