UCL Preview: Tottenham vs. AC Milan
When the two sides last met at the San Siro about a month ago, Tottenham found themselves under no pressure as they went into the tie as underdogs against a mighty AC Milan. But Peter Crouch’s header in the 80th minute turned the tide for Harry Redknapp’s men and they suddenly find themselves as the hot favorites to progress to the quarter finals in their debut Champions League season. The men in black and red lost their head as Gattuso went wild and head butted Tottenham coach Joe Jordan after the full time whistle.
Both the teams have had entirely contrasting season so far. Tottenham, enjoying a fair bit of success in their debut Champions League campaign, find themselves 5th in the domestic league. On the other hand, AC Milan have had a bumpy ride in the Champions League but are sitting firmly at the top of Serie A.
Since taking over the regime at The White Hart Lane, Harry Redknapp has preached just one style of play to his lads – all attack. And it was evident this weekend when Spurs, even after taking a lead over Wolves twice in the match continuously looked to add another to their tally and in the process, ended up drawing the match 3-3. This can’t be considered as a good tactic considering that they are flirting around with the Champions League spot for the next season and with Chelsea finding their footing in the league after a torrid period, things just get worse for Spurs.
True, their defense has been hit by injuries from time to time but the White Hart Lane outfit needs to up their defense in order to progress to the next stage. Michael Dawson is ready to don the captain’s armband and take his position at the heart of defense after recovering from a knee injury. Accompanying him will be the experienced William Gallas. Tottenham have been strengthened by the return of Bale, Modric and Van der Vaart from injuries and the trio is expected to start in a fairly tricky fixture. Upfront, Redknapp finds himself in a selection dilemma as he has to select one striker from Crouch, Defoe and Pavlyuchenko. Crouch scored the all important away goal in the reverse fixture and his height can play a major role once again at the Hart Lane. Defoe scored a brace while Pavlyuchenko added the third against Wolves over the weekend and to make the goalscorers sit in the very next match is always a tough decision to make. Spurs have a perfect record at home in the competition this season and have scored atleast 3 goals in every match at home. All in all, Redknapp’s side is not expected to sit back and hold onto their 1 goal lead over the visitors. They will look to go out and win the game.
Redknapp will miss the services of Corluka, who was on the receiving end of a rash challenge from Flamini in the reverse fixture. Also, Ledley King (groin),Jonathan Woodgate (adductor), Tom Huddlestone (ankle) and Younes Kaboul (knee) are long term injury concerns and will not make an appearance.
“We have a big advantage, but this is far from over and we can’t underestimate Milan and think it’s finished. One of the reasons why we are playing so good in the Champions League is because we are so excited to play here and we want to enjoy it while it’s going good. We have great belief and if we continue to play like that we can achieve a lot.” – Luka Modric
AC Milan might be on the top in Serie A but one thing is for sure; they do not possess the grace and flair of the past. Their defense is losing industriousness by the day and their back four might find it hard to cope up with the pace of Spurs front four. Though their attack is something the Rossoneri must be proud of; and with the inclusion of Robinho and Ibrahimovic over the summer, AC Milan have looked a completely different unit while attacking. With Tottenham conceding six goals in the past two games against Blackpool and Wolves, the attacking trio of Robinho,Ibra and Pato must be smacking their lips at the prospect of scoring aplenty.
Gattuso’s antics at the San Siro earned him a four match ban from UEFA and he will certainly miss the trip to Hart Lane. Former Arsenal man Mathieu Flamini is tipped to receive a hostile reception after his reckless tackle left Corluka with an ankle injury. Seedorf is likely to start in the midfield along with Flamini. Massimo Ambrosini and Andrea Pirlo are long term absentees while Kevin Prince Boateng became the latest addition on the injury table. Striker Antonio Cassano, defensive midfielder Mark Van Bommel and defender Urby Emanuelson are cup-tied and will miss the game. Milan’s forward trio holds the key to victory and the midfielders will be required to get the ball up to them as soon as possible.
“I’m sorry he got injured, but I don’t have any regrets. Football is a physical game and sometimes things like that can happen. As an ex-Gunner it’s going to be like a derby for me and if we manage to win it will be doubly satisfying.” – Flamini on Corluka tackle
One can expect fireworks on the field when the two completely contrasting sides meet in the 2nd leg of the last-16 stage of the Champions League. The fans are in for a treat and I myself, being a neutral for this fixture, am looking forward to see the clash. I go with a Spurs victory and as someone on twitter said, “Spurs have the legs on this Milan side, and as long as they keep their heads then that should be enough.”