World-beater Bale plots fresh Inter nightmares
LONDON (AFP) –
Tottenham Hotspur’s Gareth Bale will be out to repeat his torment of Inter Milan when the sides renew acquaintance at White Hart Lane on Thursday in the first leg of their Europa League last 16 tie.
The Welshman rose to global prominence in October 2010 when he scored a stunning second-half hat-trick as Spurs rallied from 4-0 down in a 4-3 loss to Inter at San Siro in the Champions League group phase.
He then mastermined Tottenham’s revenge in the return fixture, destroying Brazil right-back Maicon in one of the great displays of modern wing play and teeing up goals for Peter Crouch and Roman Pavlyuchenko in a 3-1 win.
Two seasons on, the 23-year-old forward is in breath-taking form, having opened the scoring in a 2-1 win at Arsenal on Sunday that took Spurs up to third place in the Premier League.
It was his ninth goal in his last seven appearances in all competitions and team-mate Michael Dawson believes he now stands comparison with the very best players in the world.
“Gaz is up there with (Cristiano) Ronaldo and (Lionel) Messi in terms of ability,” said the English centre-back.
“He’s one of the best players in the world at the moment, and probably the best in the world for me right now.
“Some of the things he does would have Ronaldo blush. His goal this season against Norwich, where he picked the ball up in his own half and dribbled past all those players before having the calm and composure to put it in the bottom corner… He’s been brilliant and credit to him.”
Inter stalwart Javier Zanetti played in both Champions League encounters in 2010 and has not forgotten the damage inflicted by Bale.
“Bale is a great player and will be difficult to deal with,” he told Tuttosport earlier this week.
“We must be brave. But being on the front foot in a game like this will not be easy.”
Inter climbed to fourth place in Serie A on Sunday after rallying from two goals down at half-time to win 3-2 at Catania thanks to a stoppage-time winner from substitute Rodrigo Palacio.
However, preparations for the game were over-shadowed by a training-ground bust-up involving coach Andrea Stramaccioni and temperamental striker Antonio Cassano.
The Italy forward was omitted from the squad for the trip to Sicily and has reportedly been fined 40,000 euros (£34,400, $52,200) by his club.
Cassano is nonetheless expected to be named in the squad for the trip to London, but Diego Milito, Walter Samuel, Yuto Nagatomo and Joel Obi all feature on a lengthy injury list.
Spurs duo Emmanuel Adebayor and Mousa Dembele were forced off during Sunday’s derby win over Arsenal, but manager Andre Villas-Boas says both players will be fit for Thursday’s game.