Moussa Sissoko says Tottenham must stay calm and strike first against Ajax

• Midfielder describes it as Spurs ‘biggest week’ of season
• Win next Sunday over Everton would seal top-four place

Moussa Sissoko has billed the next seven days as the biggest week of Tottenham Hotspur’s season, as they seek to reach the Champions League final by beating Ajax on Wednesday before taking on Everton looking to seal a top-four berth, which would guarantee them a place in Europe’s elite club competition again next campaign.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side were reduced to nine men at Bournemouth on Saturday as they slipped to a sixth consecutive away league defeat but Sissoko has urged Spurs to keep their cool and shake off their latest setback by earning a landmark victory in Amsterdam.

Tottenham trail Ajax by a single goal after home defeat in the first leg but Sissoko is adamant Spurs can reverse that scoreline in Holland and reach the final in Madrid on 1 June. “I think this week will be the biggest of the season for us because, if we beat Ajax, we can be in the final of the Champions League and that would be something amazing for everyone,” he said. “At the same time against Everton, if we win as well, we will secure the Champions League for next season. We have to be positive in our mind and not think too much.

“I think the good thing is Ajax is a team that likes to play. I don’t think they will stick together at the back, sit at the back and only try to defend. I think they will try to play, try to score and, for us, we know we have to score as early as possible. We will play our game, try to score one goal and if we have the chance to score one goal, the game will be 50-50. If we can score two goals away, we know it is going to be difficult for them. We have to make sure we score the first goal, not concede and after we will see what happens.”

Sissoko admitted it would be painful if Spurs failed to secure Champions League football again next season after surpassing expectations to reach the last four this time around, overcoming Borussia Dortmund and Manchester City along the way. They must either beat Everton on Sunday to cement a place in the top four or win the Champions League to seal qualification. “If you are in the semi-finals of the Champions League and the next season you are not in the Champions League, it will be a bit painful, but I don’t think about that,” the Tottenham midfielder said. “I’m sure in my head, like everyone, that we will be in the Champions League next season and for that we have to play a massive game on Wednesday to try to go to the final and then beat Everton.

“The final of the Champions League, it would be unbelievable. At the beginning of the Champions League, no one expected us to be in that position, so if we win and go the final it will be a dream for everyone. We have to believe in ourselves because we can do it. It won’t be an easy game because Ajax is a good team. They play good football but we have a chance.”

After Spurs failed to keep their emotions in check at Bournemouth, with Son Heung-min and Juan Foyth sent off inside 48 minutes, Sissoko emphasised the importance of staying calm against the Eredivisie leaders, who have lost only once at home this season, against Real Madrid. “Yes, it is very important [to stay calm],” he said. “It is not every week you can play this kind of game. Of course we lost 1-0 at home, but it is not over. Even away we still have a chance to win and we have to believe in ourselves. That is what we will try to do and now we need to have some rest, some recovery and do everything to go to Amsterdam and come back with the qualification.”

Nathan Ake, who scored Bournemouth’s winner, said  Tottenham’s Champions League semi-final opponents Ajax, who lead 1-0 from the first leg, would play ‘with no fear’.
Nathan Ake, who scored Bournemouth’s winner, said Tottenham’s Champions League semi-final opponents Ajax, who lead 1-0 from the first leg, would play ‘with no fear’. Photograph: Robin Jones - AFC Bournemouth/AFC Bournemouth via Getty Images

Nathan Aké, who snatched victory for Bournemouth, reminded Spurs that finding a way past Ajax, led by their classy 19-year-old captain Matthijs de Ligt, his Netherlands team-mate, will be a tough task. “Sometimes it seems as though he [De Ligt] has no nerves or anything,” Aké said.

“All of them [Ajax players] just go into the game playing the way they always play: confident and with no fear. Everyone can see they are top, top players. When they come to the national team they are always humble, they work hard and they are still very young. They are dominating in Europe and in the national team they are doing very well, at their ages it’s very, very good what they are doing.”