Spurs is most important match in Ajax stadium’s history, says Erik ten Hag

• Manager says players do not need any ‘external motivation’
• Ajax take 1-0 aggregate lead into home second leg

Erik ten Hag insists his young Ajax side need no motivation against Tottenham on Wednesday in the stadium that bears the name of the club’s most famous player. Opened in 1996 following an eight-day torch relay involving 375 runners that was started by Johan Cruyff at the club’s old De Meer home, it was rechristened two years ago following his death and as their manager acknowledged, has been waiting for an occasion like this for some time.

“Everyone knows what it is about,” Ten Hag said on Tuesday. “It is the most important match for Ajax in this arena. We don’t need any external motivation.”

Not since Louis van Gaal’s 1997 vintage lost the first leg of their Champions League semi-final 2-1 to Juventus have the four-times European champions reached this stage of the competition that this season began for them in July against Sturm Graz. Seventeen matches later and with a 1-0 advantage from the first leg victory over Spurs last week, only the bravest would bet against them reaching the final now in what has become a fairytale story for the former defender who learned his trade as a coach at Bayern Munich during Pep Guardiola’s tenure in Germany.

Ten Hag said: “A few people who knew this level of success said it would still be possible for a Dutch team to reach the Champions League final; people like Johan Cruyff, Louis van Gaal and [Ajax director] Marc Overmars.

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“It’s up to us tomorrow to prove them right. But I don’t live in the past, I live in the now, and that is important. The only thing we focus on is tomorrow’s match. But you cannot expect at the start of the season to be sitting here in the semi-finals of the Champions League, that is true.”

Yet while Ajax’s victories over Real Madrid and Juventus in the last two rounds were the product of outstanding performances away from home in the second leg, this time they will have a chance to make history in front of their own supporters.

“I’m not nervous,” said Daley Blind. “I think a little bit of healthy tension is good and comparable to the other matches. Just like the other matches, and the group phase, they’re all important matches against big opponents and you have to make the best of it during preparation. The team has grown tremendously in many aspects this year. This really is a team effort, and I am proud to be part of it.”