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Ajax must embrace favourites tag – De Ligt

20:13 BST 03/05/2019
De Ligt - cropped
Dutch club's attention has switched from their Champions League tie with Tottenham to Sunday's KNVB Beker final, in which they face Willem II.

Matthijs de Ligt believes he and his Ajax team-mates can thrive under the pressure of being favourites domestically and in the Champions League.

Ajax beat Tottenham 1-0 in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final on Tuesday, thanks to Donny van de Beek's first-half strike.

Before the second leg, Ajax – who lead the Eredivisie on goal difference – could clinch their first piece of silverware this season when they face Willem II in the KNVB Beker final on Sunday.

Ajax are overwhelming favourites to claim what would be their 19th trophy in the competition, and given they are in pole position in the Eredivisie and their Champions League tie, De Ligt acknowledged that there is now added expectation on Erik tan Hag's side.

However, the 19-year-old thinks that the added pressure will provide Ajax with even more focus.

"According to some, we might no longer be the underdog against Tottenham, but of course we were against Real Madrid and Juventus," De Ligt told a news conference.

"Then you really feel the pressure to win. A favourite role makes a difference, I can feel that, yes. I am extra focused. 

"We are still playing for three prizes. Everyone goes full steam ahead."

Ajax last won the cup in 2010, and coach Erik Ten Hag insists he will not risk missing out on silverware by resting some of his key players prior to the second leg of their tie with Tottenham.

"I don't see it as a rest. I'm just going to set up a team that can beat Willem II," Ten Hag said,

"There are no players in the red. We played against Spurs on Tuesday. The time to Sunday is more than enough to recover."

Ten Hag’s team  will resume their Eredivise schedule on May 12 against Utrecht before playing their final game against De Graafschap on May 15.

The Dutch football authorities rescheduled last weekend’s round of fixtures to allow Ajax to prepare for their tilt at European glory.

Ten Hag denied that the postponement of that game gave his team an unfair advantage over Tottenham ahead of their game on Tuesday.