Ajax must embrace favourites tag, says De Ligt

Ajax's attention has switched from its Champions League tie with Tottenham to Sunday's KNVB Beker final, in which it faces Willem II.

Matthijs de Ligt following Ajax's win at Tottenham   -  Getty Images

Matthijs de Ligt believes he and his Ajax teammates can thrive under the pressure of being the favourite domestically and in the Champions League.

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

Before the second leg, Ajax – which leads the Eredivisie on goal difference – could clinch its first piece of silverware this season when it faces Willem II in the KNVB Beker final on Sunday.

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Ajax is the overwhelming favourite to claim what would be its 19th trophy in the competition, and given it is in pole position in the Eredivisie and its 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."

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

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