After landing 3/3 tips at the weekend, our resident tipster Ed Acteson returns to cast his eye over the midweek £5,000 1X2 Pick 5 pool, in which Ajax vs. Tottenham looks to be the most intriguing encounter.
Ajax vs. Tottenham
Tottenham and Ajax have plenty in common. Both are progressive, young sides who, despite being inexpensively constructed, punch above their weight with their attacking football.
However, where they differ is that Ajax’ season has truly come to life in the last few weeks and seem to be getting stronger, whereas Tottenham’s is falling apart at the seams.
When Spurs qualified for the semi-finals at the Etihad a few weeks ago, it was portrayed as a victory in some quarters which masked the fact that they actually lost the match. Looking back now, the stark reality is that it was the first loss of a terrible run in which they have lost five of their last six matches.
With Harry Kane injured and Heung-Min Son suspended, they have almost entirely lost their attacking edge and have now scored once in the last five, against lowly Brighton, whilst failing to find the net in defeats to Bournemouth and West Ham.
Ajax, on the other hand, look as though they could keep playing throughout the summer. They are undefeated in ten matches, three of which came in the Champions League against Juventus and Spurs. They have won nine of those, scoring 31 goals in the process, including four at the weekend against Willem II.
Tottenham have just run out of steam. Unfortunately one of the prices of success is a more exhausting workload and, accordingly, their players have played ten matches since the 31st of March, a huge task for a club who featured more players than any other in the semi-finals of the World Cup last summer.
Spurs can beat anyone on their day but this young Ajax side remain so energetic that I think they will overwhelm the tired Londoners.
Valencia vs. Arsenal
From one struggling English side to another, Arsenal’s 3-1 victory over Valencia at the Emirates last week did little to paper over the cracks appearing in North London at the moment.
It did put an end to a run of three consecutive defeats, in which Arsenal conceded three to each of Crystal Palace, Wolves and Leicester. However, their 1-1 draw with Brighton on Sunday suggested that Arsenal aren’t out of the woods.
They have to take this match seriously though. With fourth place now out of reach, barring an extraordinary set of results on the last day, winning the Europa League remains the Gunners’ last path into the Champions League next season.
Fortunately for Unai Emery’s men, they come up against a Valencia side who are hardly flying themselves. A 6-2 victory over bottom-of-the-table Huesca is the single outlier in their previous five games, of which they have lost four.
Arsenal know that the onus is on Valencia to attack, whereas they can afford to sit back and soak up the pressure. The one positive that the Spaniards can take into this game is that Arsenal have been atrocious away from home this season.
I’m not anticipating this being a classic. I think, for Arsenal, the smart play is to sit back and protect their lead against an out-of-form side and that formula usually results in a visually unpleasant contest. There is a chance that either side nicks it by a goal but I think there is a greater possibility that it peters out into a draw, so will be backing that outcome.
Chelsea vs. Eintracht Frankfurt
Frankfurt are a surprising presence at this stage of the competition. It’s only their third European campaign since 1995 and their first semi-final in the competition since they were defeated by domestic rivals Borussia Monchengladbach in the 1979/80 season.
They held Chelsea to a draw in the first leg, having taken the lead, but will need a big performance in the second leg if they’re going to reach the final.
The stats from last week’s encounter told a tale about a hugely one-sided affair, with Chelsea dominating 67% of the possession, taking 16 shots to Frankfurt’s five whilst also completing over twice as many passes (592). Things aren’t going to get any easier at Stamford Bridge and the Germans will certainly have their work cut out.
Chelsea have already qualified for the Champions League and it has to be said that, considering Maurizio Sarri looked doomed a few months ago, adding the Europa League to a third place finish in the Premier League and a League Cup final would be a pretty decent return from a first season.
Eintracht have only won once in their last seven games and were hammered 6-1 away to Bayer Leverkusen at the weekend, so will be coming into this one with their confidence at rock bottom. I honestly don’t see anything other than a comfortable home win that with the Blues reaching a probable all-English final.