We’re taking a different approach for the 2019 UEFA Champions League Semifinals combined starting XI this go around.
Our resident Liverpool and Premier League expert, Chops, and our in-house La Liga/Barcelona expert and Ajax stan, Tyler Everett, combined forces in creating our High Press Soccer combined XI’s.
Today, we examine the Tottenham vs. Ajax combined XI. Check out our combined XI for Barcelona-Liverpool here.
We mostly were in agreement on this group, which required substantially less back-and-forth than the other semifinal.
Tottenham– Ajax Champions League Odds and Probabilities
Just like with the Barcelona-Liverpool semifinal pairing, oddsmakers and analytics don’t line up on this match-up.
Although not to the same degree as with Barcelona in the other half of the bracket, Tottenham are seen as the favorite to advance on FanDuel Sportsbook NJ. They are +380 on UCL futures on
FanDuel Sportsbook NJ to Ajax’s +410.
However their individual match odds interestingly don’t reflect that favored status. Leg 1 is listed first. Leg 2 at Ajax underneath. The odds show Ajax as a heavy home favorite and more likely to draw or upset Spurs on the road.
|Tottenham +130||Draw +230||Ajax +210|
|Ajax +110||Draw +240||Tottenham +250|
Over on FiveThirtyEight, like with Barcelona-Liverpool, the match-up is essentially a coin-flip.
Tottenham – Ajax Combined Starting XI
We went with a change in formation to a 3-4-3 instead of the standard 4-3-3 we’ve been using. Why? In part because it accommodates the talent better. But it also is a FUN AF line-up that would be an absolute joy to watch against any squad in the world.
Seriously, how fun would that XI be to watch?
Chops: If you asked me which goalie I’d rather have over the next 3-4 years, I’d go with the 23 year-old André Onana. But a goalie for the semifinals of the 2019 Champions League? I’m going with Lloris by a hair. He’s got a high save percentage in the UCL and has been an underrated performer for Tottenham in the Premier League, where he has 11 clean sheets in this season’s best overall domestic league (including two Man of the Matches). The difference is razor-thin, but Lloris has been tested against bigger competition more frequently this season which gives him the edge.
Everett: I’ve been impressed with Onana, who did not make a ton of saves against Juventus in the UCL quarters — the Italians tallied just four shots on goal over the two games — but stood tall when he had to. He was not one of the first names mentioned as his team knocked off Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. But he should have gotten more love than he did after allowing the Serie A champs to score just twice over 180 minutes, with no second-half goals in either game. His quarterfinal performance followed a solid effort in leg 2 of the round of 16 against Real Madrid, when he did not allow Los Blancos on the board until the 70th minute, when his team was up 3-0.
FWIW, WhoScored has rated Lloris 6.9 in the EPL and 6.71 in the UCL, compared to Onana’s 6.84 (Eredivisie) and 6.76 (UCL).
Chops: All of Tyler’s points are valid here. Flip a coin.
Everett: It landed on the Lloris side.
Chops: On to the backline, which is unsurprisingly Ajax-heavy.
Everett: Matthijs de Ligt is world-class. This is more evident than ever in the wake of what he did against Juve, when his game-winner off a corner in leg 2 wrapped up a memorable performance.
He has to be joined by Nicolás Tagliafico as the other center back. A scary thought for Spurs fans: Ajax stifled Juventus, on the road, without arguably its second-best defender in Tagliafico, who missed leg 2 of the quarters due to a suspension. In addition to his defensive work, Tagliafico has scored three goals in eight UCL appearances this year. We made it an all-Ajax back line, with Noussair Mazraoui completing the trio.
Everett: Choosing this midfield required less discussion than any other position group in either semifinal XI. De Jong, like de Ligt, needs no explanation. It was also easy to pick Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli, which account for most of Spurs’ star power with Harry Kane on the shelf.
Chops: I’m a heavy Premier League watcher and I want Liverpool to buy Eriksen and Alli (to be fair, I want them to buy everyone good on any other team, earlier this season I was trying to make a case for buying Richarlison, soooo…). But there’s a reason why Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Manchester United are coming hard after Eriksen. He’s a great assist man, tallying 12 so far in the Premier League this season. But he can come up huge when his team needs him to find the net, like he did with Brighton this week.
Dele Alli is sometimes overlooked as one of the top young players in England, but there’s a reason why he’s one of the top six valued midfielders in the Premier League. At 23, Alli actually feels more like an Ajax player than a Spurs one. A silent assassin, he’s so confident on ball, willing to take chances, create opportunities. Liverpool should buy him.
Everett: Up top, Son Heung-min and Dusan Tadic represent two more easy choices. We all saw the work Son did in both legs against Manchester City, carrying the load after Kane’s injury. Spurs are not here without their Korean star, which makes his unavailability for leg 1 due to suspension a major problem.
Tadic is not yet a huge name, but for long stretches of Ajax’s last four games, he’s been arguably the best — and certainly the flashiest/most entertaining — player on the pitch. He was spectacular in leg 2 of the round of 16 as his team ransacked RM. While he was not quite at that highlight-reel level against Juve, he was still impressive. The numbers back up the notion that he’s been among the best players in the UCL, as he has totaled a ridiculous 30 goals to go with 15 assists in Champions League and Eredivisie play this year.
Chops: I actually debated the inclusion of Son since he’s only playing the Leg 2 game, but as criminally underrated as Son has been this year, it would only underrate him more feloniously to leave him out. He’s in an elite group of goal scorers who don’t require teammates creating “big chances” for him — he creates them himself (2:50 mark).
Tadic and Ziyech are not the names of the aliens from the Simpsons, but two of the three top-rated offensive players in the Eredivisie this year. Tadic, who at 30 could be the father to half of Ajax’s team, has been the more productive goal scorer of the two, but Ziyech creates chances. He’s generating an absurd 5.3 shots on goal per game in the UCL (and 5.4 in the Eredivisie). If Harry Kane were healthy, he’d surely get one of the forward spots — but not until after some legit debate on whether it would be Tadic or Ziyech getting left off.
Everett: One place where I’ll give Tottenham the advantage is on the bench, where Mauricio Pochettino deserves all the credit in the world. His team just knocked off what looked like the best squad in the world (please forgive me for saying that, Chops!). And that was while missing Kane down the stretch of leg 1 and without him at all in the second leg. At this point, it’s well-documented that Spurs are in the midst of an incredible run despite no offseason signings last summer, but it’s hard to say enough about the job Pochettino’s done, especially in the round of 16.