Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri believes Ajax have been a tad fortunate in the Champions League this season.
The four-time European Cup winners eliminated defending champions Real Madrid and the Old Lady en route to their semi-final showdown against Tottenham Hotspur.
Ajax’s incredible run: Five things to know…
- Ajax are the first Champions League team to reach the semi-finals after coming through three qualifying rounds.
- They are the first club to defeat both Real Madrid and Juventus away from home in the same European season.
- Erik ten Hag’s men hold a slender 1-0 lead over Spurs heading into the semi-final second leg in Amsterdam on May 8.
- Donny van de Beek scored the only goal in north London.
- Ajax are 90 minutes away from reaching a seventh European Cup final.
It’s an unbelievable run which began last July, days after the 2018 World Cup final concluded, and saw them negotiate three qualifying rounds before drawing Bayern Munich and Benfica in the same group.
Ajax would finish behind Bayern and face 13-time (and defending) champions Real Madrid whom they spectacularly brushed aside in the Spanish capital. Their quarter-final meeting with Juve was more of a close affair, but the Amsterdammers answered everything asked of them, inflicting a consecutive last eight exit on Allegri’s men now boasting five-time Ballon d’Or recipient Cristiano Ronaldo.
Erik ten Hag’s side are now 90 minutes away from reaching a first European Cup final since 1996. They head into their second leg meeting with Spurs holding a slender 1-0 advantage, Donny van de Beek – who equalised in Turin – with the only goal of the first leg.
Allegri, who has come under pressure for this latest setback, has now suggested the Eredivisie outfit were fortunate to secure their place in the last four.
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“In the Champions League there are moments when everything goes right, Ajax faced us without us having five players,” he told Sky Italia (via Goal).
“Then they go to London and they [Tottenham] were missing the [main] striker [Kane], and the other striker [Son] is banned. After 15 minutes the central defender [Vertonghen] gets injured…”
An unprecedented treble?
Ajax are effectively five wins away from completing the unlikeliest of trebles. Once before have they won the Eredivisie, KNVB Beker (or Dutch Cup) and European Cup in the same campaign — that was amid their greatest period of success in 1971/72.
Since the Champions League expanded in 1997/98 to allow more than one club from a single nation only one club from outside Europe’s ‘big five’ leagues has reached the final: FC Porto under Jose Mourinho in 2004 and they would go on to beat AS Monaco in the Gelsenkirchen final.
Standing in Ajax’s way in Spurs and if they were to get past them it’s a date with either Barcelona or Liverpool. Before reaching a potential Champions League final there’s a Dutch Cup final with Willem II and two league outings against FC Utrecht (home) and De Graafschap (away).