Quentin Tarantino would have struggled to create a plot as mind-blowingly crazy as the one fans were treated to on Wednesday, April 17, at the Etihad Stadium.
Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur was almost the quintessential example of coronary-inducing soccer in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie.
Spurs pulled off a magnificent win, although they did just about enough to scrape past tournament favorite Man City on the night.
Well, with a little help from a controversial VAR (video assistant referee) decision.
Of course, the term “scrape past” might raise a few eyebrows given that Mauricio Pochettino’s men fought like lions in a game that ended 4-3 on the night and 4-4 on aggregate.
It took seven goals to separate the English rivals in what will go down as one of the most dramatic climaxes to a Champions League game in the history of the competition. Five of those seven goals were scored in the first 21 minutes of a game that will live long in the memory of both sets of supporters.
Now, with Spurs fans beginning to come down from an incredible, collective high, they will soon be focusing on the next stage of their Champions League journey.
Awaiting the London-based club on April 30 will be none other than the tournament’s surprise package, Ajax.
The legendary Dutch club has long been unseated from the table of European giants but is back with a bang. There will be many backing them on the best soccer betting sites to go all the way to the final.
This semi-final first-leg tie is going to be an absolute barnstormer and one that generates a colossal amount of betting interest.
Let’s take a look at the odds for this crucial Champions League fixture.
Latest Tottenham Hotspur vs. Ajax Odds
All odds you will encounter in this post are taken from Bovada sports. These odds are accurate at the time of writing but subject to change.
Tottenham Hotspur to Win+125
Ajax to Win+220
Spurs come in as the favorites to win this tie at odds of +125, while Ajax is priced at +220 to leave London with the spoils.
However, the draw is priced at +245, and I can see this being a very popular bet.
Spurs certainly have the firepower and defense to go all the way in this season’s Champions League. Although they have been frustratingly inconsistent in the English Premier League this year, their form in Europe has been anything but.
If consistency is enough to win the Champions League, then Ajax will be quietly confident of, at very least, making their first final since 1996, where they lost to Juventus on penalties.
At this stage of the competition, anything can happen. Ajax has beaten both Real Madrid and Juventus to get here and will not be going down without a serious fight.
Tottenham’s Road to the Semi-Finals
Out of the four semi-finalists in this year’s Champions League, Tottenham has the worst record when it comes to making this stage of the tournament.
In fact, you have to go back all the way to the 1961/62 season for the last time Spurs made it this far. That year, Spurs lost to the eventual winners, Benfica, who were defending their title.
This season, the club was not expected to do as well as they have done.
Spurs, at one point, looked to be crashing out of the tournament in the group stages but for an unlikely 1-1 draw against Barcelona in the Camp Nou. Their head-to-head record with Inter Milan saw them squeeze into the knockout rounds despite finishing level with the Italians on 10 points in Group B.
The Londoners progressed to the last 16, where they knocked out Bundesliga contender Borussia Dortmund with an aggregate score of 4-0.
Winning that tie meant that Spurs would face EPL and Champions League favorite Man City in two ties that many believed would be won by Pep Guardiola’s troops.
A 1-0 victory at home to City in Spurs’ new stadium set up a fantastic semi-final in Manchester, but nobody would have expected what was to come next.
Spurs’ Remarkable Triumph
What an incredible fixture. It was almost the perfect serving of excitement to be spoon-fed to those who believe soccer has lost its soul.
In the space of the first 21 minutes, City took a 1-0 lead, then trailed 2-1, before taking the lead again at 3-2. The first half was certainly as crazy as it sounds, but it was the second half that proved to be even crazier.
There were only two goals officially scored in the second half. Sergio Aguero had put the hosts 4-2 up on the 59th minute before Tottenham substitute Fernando Llorente scrambled the ball in for the equalizer.
Referee Cuneyt Cakir stopped play to look at the lead-up to the score. He eventually deemed the goal to be good. City had protested that the ball had made contact with the Spaniard’s hand, but Cakir had ruled this out.
With Spurs ahead on away goals and seemingly heading to the semis, City fans could not believe their eyes when Raheem Sterling put away his third of the game. This goal meant that City would progress in their place.
However, amidst the celebrations, blue hearts were broken by VAR. Sergio Aguero was shown to be in an offside position in the lead-up to Sterling’s goal, and once again, City was staring down the barrel of elimination from a tournament they had desperately wanted to win.
This tie was the most exciting of the tournament so far, by some distance.
Ajax’s Road to the Semi-Finals
Ajax may not have had the most difficult group to contend with but finished just 2 points off Group E winner Bayern Munich with 12 points.
The Amsterdam-based club drew twice with Germany’s most successful team and finished unbeaten, with three wins and three draws from their six games.
Having made the last 16, Ajax must have been cursing their luck in drawing the winners of the last three Champions League tournaments, Real Madrid.
The Spanish club has not exactly had their greatest season but was simply outclassed in the second leg of the last 16 in the Santiago Bernabeu. Ajax capitalized on amateur indiscipline and a shambolic performance to walk away with an incredible 4-1 victory and a ticket to the quarter-finals.
Regardless of how poor Madrid might be this year, Ajax was simply scintillating in that tie and played some fantastic soccer, scoring some stunning goals in the process.
Ajax had defied everyone’s expectations and had knocked out Real Madrid on course to an unlikely last 8 tie with Juventus.
In the first leg at home, Ajax earned a 1-1 draw, with David Neres Campos canceling out Ronaldo’s opener. The Dutch outfit was set up nicely for a winner-takes-all clash in Italy.
Ajax Proves Their Quality
Confidence was high, but to go to Turin and earn a result that would keep them in with a chance of progressing further was seen as difficult.
However, Ajax pulled it off.
It was an incredible story for the club, who made the Champions League semi-finals for the first time in 22 years, denying Cristiano Ronaldo a shot at winning his fourth consecutive medal.
Juventus, who had lost key player Paulo Dybala for the second half, was hit by Matthijs de Ligt’s header in the 67th minute. It looked as though the pendulum was beginning to swing Ajax’s way.
It could have all been wrapped up when Hakim Ziyech scored, but the strike was ruled out for offside. Nonetheless, the excellent de Ligt had the last say, and Ajax triumphed on the night.
It was a superb win, given that Ajax was effectively the rank outsider to lift the cup at the beginning of the tournament. Some online bookmakers were offering as much as +25000 for Ajax to triumph, making it some achievement to make it this far.
The bravery and intrepidness of this young team have made the impossible somewhat possible. For the neutrals watching this competition, Ajax was certainly done enough to warrant their support.
With Tottenham next on the agenda, the Ajax players will need to, once again, raise their individual games in order to achieve a dream place in the final of the Champions League.
The next part of their incredible journey involves a trip to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London.
Spurs have a 100% record in the Champions League here.
Okay, they have only ever played one game here in this tournament, but that stat sounded cool.
Spurs vs. Ajax – The Prediction
Ajax has been the major talking point of the Champions League this year.
And rightly so.
This young, hungry, and relatively inexperienced side has shown the elite teams on the continent how far a solid game plan, self-belief, and team cohesion can get you.
From 1 to 11, Ajax has some serious quality and has already shown just how potent they are on the counterattack and when a game is opened up. Against Tottenham, they will be looking to get a vital away goal to set themselves up for the return leg.
Make no mistake, Ajax is facing their toughest contest of the tournament so far.
Spurs are a very well-organized team with some world-class players ready to show that they belong in a Champions League final. Defensively, they are very sound and will show Ajax more respect than Real Madrid and Juventus did, which is actually a bad thing for the Dutch team.
Yes, Harry Kane will be missing for Spurs, and that is a blow. However, Mauricio Pochettino’s men went to Manchester and scored three goals in the quarter-finals, so, I don’t believe they will miss him too much.
The Key to This Tie
The most obvious thing to point out here is that Tottenham will be playing at home in the first leg.
The last game they played in front of their own fans in this tournament was against Manchester City, who was the favorite to win the tie, progress to the semis, and win the tournament.
City can boast some of the most potent attackers in soccer and could not register even one goal that night. Before City, Dortmund had no luck when playing Spurs away from home.
The key to this tie is Ajax scoring an away goal. If they cannot pull this off — and hit the back of the net at least once — then they will have their backs against the wall when Spurs travel to Amsterdam in the second leg.
This makes Ajax’s situation a peculiar one.
On one hand, do they deviate from the tactics that have effectively brought them this far? Or do they play it safe and try to close the game out and hope to nick a goal?
I have really enjoyed watching both teams in this tournament, but I do feel Tottenham’s achievements in knocking out the tournament favorites have been slightly shaded by Ajax’s excellent run.
I believe Spurs will be too organized for Ajax on the night and will be primed to head to Amsterdam with a 2-goal lead.
They are strong enough to keep a clean sheet and have dangerous attacking quality — especially on the counter — which could be enough to see them earn a very fortuitous advantage on April 30.
PICKTottenham Hotspur to Win+125
Interesting Bets for this Tie
There are some excellent bets to look at in this tie, if, that is, you don’t believe that Tottenham’s price of +125 to win is enough to earn your cash.
As I mentioned above, I believe Tottenham, as the more experienced team, will devise the right strategy to keep Ajax at bay. As such, I can see the Londoners playing smart and taking the opportunities that come their way on the counter.
Ajax will be pushing hard for an away goal, which will invariably leave them vulnerable to counter-attacks.
My prediction of Tottenham to edge things out is based on my belief that they will win each half. You can get +255 for Spurs to win the first and second halves of the game.
Tottenham is +230 to keep a clean sheet, too, which looks like a solid bet. Yes, Ajax has shown that they can score goals on their travels, but I think Spurs’ defense will be too organized to allow for the same opportunities afforded to them by Real Madrid and Juventus.
If you are erring on the side of caution, you can avoid all of these bets and get odds of -115 for Tottenham to qualify at the end of both legs, which is pretty solid, in my book.
Of course, nothing is guaranteed when wagering on soccer.
Whether you are betting on Spurs or Ajax to win this tie, no one truly knows how it will pan out.
For some, Tottenham Hotspur and Ajax are the two unlikely semi-finalists of this season’s Champions League.
It has been excellent for the tournament — and for soccer, in general — to have two young, exciting teams going head to head for a place in the final against either Barcelona or Liverpool.
While Ajax will certainly be many of the neutrals’ choice for this tie, Tottenham will have surely attracted much praise from soccer fans across the globe. After all, dismantling the tournament favorites, Manchester City, was no easy task, and they did this without the help of their star man, Harry Kane.
Whether you are betting on Tottenham or Ajax, this game will give you plenty of opportunities to try and beat the bookies. I hope you have identified a couple of bets to your liking from those I laid out above, too, and are even a fraction as stoked for this game as I am.
Whatever happens in this extraordinary Champions League semi-final, I hope that it is a good one and that both teams put on a show for their loyal fans.
Make sure you check in with me here after the Tottenham vs. Ajax first leg, where I will be reviewing the game and breaking down what we can expect in the return leg.
Until then, good luck with your bets! You may also want to check out the following two recent posts from colleagues relating to the Champions League.
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Ajax – Champions League Semi-Final First Leg Betting Preview
Tottenham Hotspur will meet Ajax in the semi-finals of the 2019 Champions League. Here’s my first-leg betting preview with odds and predictions.