Ajax coach Erik ten Hag has asked his side to show a maturity beyond their years when they take on Tottenham in the Champions League semi-finals.
Spurs host Ajax in the first leg on Tuesday, with the Eredivisie leaders welcoming Mauricio Pochettino’s side to Amsterdam on May 8.
Ten Hag’s team – who had to start off in July in the second qualifying round – have already overcome Real Madrid and Juventus in the knockout stages, as well as drawing twice with Bayern Munich in the group stage.
And though the average age of Ajax’s starting XI in the Champions League this season has been 24 years and 257 days, Ten Hag insists his side cannot use inexperience as an excuse.
“They [the young players] have really matured, certainly in the last couple of years thanks to the number of matches they’ve played – in the Netherlands team and at a European level,” Ten Hag told a news conference.
“That will really strengthen them in their development. The team has really come together.
“We prepare our team thoroughly, on the basis of our own strengths. We need to have respect for the opposition – we take that into every match. That is how we do our work.
“We want to be confident on the pitch, but we can’t be naive. We have lots of matches under our belt.
— AFC Ajax (@AFCAjax) April 29, 2019
“From analysis last season we had maybe a lack of experience. We looked on purpose at the Premier League, [Daley] Blind and [Dusan] Tadic. They had to bring it to our squad and that’s what they did.
“I don’t have [superstitions]. I believe in my team, the players on the pitch and the plan we have gone through together. They can make their own independent decisions if something changes on the pitch.
“We have achieved something, but we want to do more. We don’t want to rest on our laurels. The team is good. We are very fit, very eager and very fresh. We can certainly perform at our best, we know that.”
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