The Champions League cooker turns up a notch this evening as two of the semi-finalists will be decided. Most eyes will be on the Nou Camp as Manchester United look to get a result against Barcelona but in Turin, Ajax will be hoping to shock Juventus and book their place in the final four for the first time since 1997. Here are three reasons why they will be able to stun Massimo Allegri’s men.
Nobody expects Ajax to go through. They are the dark horses of this competition and are still being underestimated despite beating champions Real Madrid in the previous round. Juventus on the other hand, having wrapped up the Serie A title, have all their eggs in the metaphorical Champions League basket. They splashed out over £100m on Cristiano Ronaldo to win them the Champions League. No other reason. That means, like PSG, there is a huge amount of pressure on these European ties and so far, they have dealt with it well.
Having scored that away goal the Old Lady are huge favourites heading into the game. Juve have already shown the impact that home advantage can have (with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring a hat-trick in the last 16 to turn around a 2-0 deficit against Atletico Madrid), but the pressure is still on for the hosts this evening. Ajax can take advantage of those home jitters.
Lessons learned from Real Madrid
Having lost the home leg 2-1, fans, pundits and even players had written off Ajax’s chances of qualification against the current European champions. Even Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos wanted the night off as he picked up a booking in the 89th minute that ruled him out of the second leg and allowed him to start afresh in the quarter-finals.
However, the Eredivisie club did not read the script. They travelled to the Bernabeu and put in one of the most outstanding Champions League performances we have seen in recent years, hitting four away goals in a dominant display at the Bernabeu. Ajax must go out there and stamp their mark on this game as they did in Spain. If they can play with the same swagger and belief and put the pressure on the hosts then they could cause another massive upset.
Innocence of youth
The reason Ajax have been such a joy to watch this season is mainly due to their youthful, exuberant playing style. The likes of Frenkie De Jong and Matthijs de Ligt seem to play without fear on the biggest stages and that is why they have drawn so much attention from Europe’s top teams. De Jong is heading to Barcelona this summer whilst de Ligt could well follow him, although there is interest from Bayern Munich.
Those two players form the spine of a team which also relies on the experience of Dusan Tadic and Daley Blind and this blend seems to work perfectly for manager Erik ten Hag. Tadic has now scored a whopping 32 goals and registered 20 assists in all competition this season, over the course of 48 games. The Dutch side will need their top scorer to be firing on all cylinders tonight if they are to dump Ronaldo’s men out of the competition.