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Champions League: England v The Rest as Spurs face Ajax

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Mauricio Pochettino is attempting to lead Tottenham Hotspur into the Champions League final for the first time. Reuters/Andrew Couldridge

Part 1 of England v The Rest of Europe starts on Tuesday night in north London when Tottenham Hotspur host Ajax of Amsterdam. Part 2 takes place on Wednesday evening in Spain with Barcelona entertaining Liverpool.
 


The prize is a place in the final of the Uefa Champions League on 1 June at the Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid. It could be an all English affair.

For that to happen, Liverpool will have to nullify the attacking threat of their old boy Luis Suarez and Barca's wrecker-in-chief Lionel Messi.

Tottenham will need to douse the ardour of the Ajax youngsters who have toppled holders Real Madrid and a wily Juventus side on their way to the last four.

"The team is good," said Ajax boss Erik ten Hag. "We are very fit, very eager and very fresh. We can certainly perform at our best."

Tottenham will go into their first semi-final clash in Europe's most prestigious club competition since 1962 with a few handicaps.

Reduced

Star striker Harry Kane is injured; the free-scoring Son Heung-min is suspended for the first leg and their sheen of invincibility at the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is shredded - they lost on 27 April to West Ham United in the Premier League.

But that's all irrelevant, says the Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino.

The 47-year-old Argentine added: "The chance to play a semi-final for Tottenham has not happened often. We are in a circumstance that is not going to change and we must be ready.

"It is impossible to be tired, impossible to not be excited to play. I am sure there is no doubt we will have the energy for 90 minutes."

In the absence of Kane and Son, Lucas Moura and Fernando Llorente are likely to lead the Spurs line. "We arrive where we are now because we were a team and we are going to be a team," said Pochettino.

"I don't care who is going to score. Always it's an issue to not have all the players fit but in front of any name was the team, the collective."

Devastation

The group that is Ajax is seemingly destined for destruction. Midfield maestro Frenkie de Jong will sport the Barcelona colours next season and skipper Matthijs de Ligt is attracting interest from other leading European sides.

Ten Hag, conceding more of his young stars will be wooed, says he is eager to make the most of this side's adventure.

"It's amazing that we are in the Champions League semi-finals," he said. "Nobody could have predicted at the beginning of the season that a Dutch team would end up in the Champions League semi-finals.

"We have achieved something. But we want to do more. We don't want to rest on our laurels."