Tottenham need to call upon spirit of 84 against Ajax
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25 years ago Spurs had key personnel missing ahead of a two-legged European semi-final, but managed to progress and this squad must use that as inspiration
Spurs head into Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final first leg with Ajax following a disheartening defeat at home to West Ham United on Saturday and worryingly they are looking short of options.
In both of Tottenham Hotspur’s last two Premier League, they have struggled to break down sides coming to N17 to frustrate.
Against Brighton & Hove Albion, the Lilywhites were able to rely on some Christian Eriksen magic to get the three points, but no such feat happened in the derby with the Hammers.
Mauricio Pochettino’s men created opportunities – Heung-min Son and Eriksen were denied by Lukasz Fabianski in the first half while Vincent Janssen had an effort cleared off the line late on – but they were nowhere near their best.
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The 1-0 loss to West Ham was painful to take, but Spurs have no time to dwell on it with their biggest game of the season coming up.
It would have been difficult against Ajax anyway, but Tottenham’s list of absentees makes life even tougher.
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Star man Harry Kane will not feature, midfield maestro Harry Winks looks set to again miss out and Erik Lamela and Serge Aurier are unlikely to play either.
Pochettino would most definitely have picked two of them against Ajax had they been fit and you could argue a case for all four being included from the off.
Another person who can’t play is Heung-min Son due to suspension and he was the difference in the quarter-final against Manchester City, scoring three times in the tie.
Moussa Sissoko’s chances of playing seem to have improved, but the north London outfit will still be without Kane, Son, Lamela, Winks and Aurier.
Janssen won’t be involved, as there was no room for him to be included in the knock-out phase squad list in the Champions League, so Tottenham are getting close to the bare bones, but if they need inspiration they don’t need to look far.
When Spurs last reached a European final, it was achieved in similar circumstances with key personnel missing.
A Glenn Hoddle masterclass helped the Lilywhites stun Johan Cruyff’s Feyenoord in the second round of UEFA Cup in the 1983/84 season.
The playmaker was untouchable in the first leg at White Hart Lane in a 4-2 victory, but his participation in the tournament ended in the quarter-final stage due to injury.
Keith Burkinshaw’s Spurs were missing their talisman in addition to Ray Clemence when they faced Hajduk Split in the last four of the competition.
Ossie Ardiles was also absent with fitness concerns and so Tottenham were preparing for two huge semi-final matches not at full strength.
In the end, it didn’t matter as other members of the squad stepped up and took their chance to guide the Lilywhites into the final via away goals following a 2-2 score on aggregate.
All eyes will now be on Lucas Moura, Fernando Llorente and Victor Wanyama to see if they can follow in the footsteps of Micky Hazard, Gary Mabbutt and Tony Parks, who all delivered the goods during that memorable run to the final.
Of course it didn’t end their for the Spurs team from 1984, they went on to triumph in even more tougher circumstances in the final with captain Steve Perryman suspended.
It shows what Tottenham have achieved in spite of adversity in the past in Europe and Pochettino’s squad will have to harness the spirit of that side.
The fans played a huge role in that triumph 25 years ago - carrying the players over the line on two occasions at White Hart Lane - and they will have a similar part to play when Ajax visit N17 this week.