Tottenham Hotspur go in search of a place in the last eight of the 2011 UEFA Champions League when AC Milan are the visitors to White Hart Lane on Wednesday in what promises to be another night of exciting action in the Champions League writes Back Page Football contributor Ger McCarthy.
Round of 16, Second leg
White Harte Lane, London
Tottenham Hotspur vs. AC Milan (1-0 from first leg)
Peter Crouch’s 80th minute winner in the San Siro earned Tottenham Hotspur a famous 1-0 victory over AC Milan the Champions League Round of 16 First Leg. A memorable night and performance from the North London club was somewhat overshadowed by the antics of Milan’s Gennaro Gatuso and his altercation with Joe Jordan. Nonetheless the application and effort of Harry Redknapp’s men resulted in Spurs’ best European display for many years and has setup a cracking second leg for White Hart Lane on Wednesday evening. You can read a full Back Page Football review of the first leg by clicking on this link.
Tottenham go into Wednesday night’s encounter having won all four Champions League home ties this season including a famous win over Milan’s bitter rivals Inter back in November. Harry Redknapp’s side consolidated their position in 5th place in the Premier League table following an end to end 3-3 draw with relegation threatened Wolves last Sunday. An exciting match was notable for the return of Gareth Bale from injury as well as the goal-scoring exploits of Jermain Defoe who bagged a cracking brace in front of a packed Molinuex.
One defeat in their last six competitive fixtures sees Spurs head into their Round of 16 clash with Milan in good health. The return of Jermain Defoe to the starting line-up is a timely one with Rafael Van der Vaart struggling with injury and Peter Crouch also having missed a number of Tottenham’s previous league games.
AC Milan are also in a rich vein of form and sit atop Serie A with only one loss in their previous thirteen domestic fixtures. A run of three consecutive victories over Chievo, Napoli and Juventus has the Rossoneri five points clear of Inter Milan with ten games remaining. Massimo Allegri has guided Milan back to winning ways following their tempestuous first leg loss at home to Tottenham and will be confident in his side’s attacking ability in London on Wednesday night.
Brazilian wonder-kid Pato has netted twice in his last three league games including a marvellous individual effort in the 3-0 win at home to Napoli. AC Milan will need Pato playing to his optimum if they are to overcome a 1-0 deficit in the second leg as well as other likely forwards Ibrahimovic and Robinho.
The second leg between Spurs and Milan promises to be an end to end encounter in front of a full house at White Hart Lane. Tottenham will likely include Van der Vaart, Lennon and Bale in their starting XI and Harry Redknapp’s side will be anxious for an early goal in an effort to kill off the tie. Spurs’ porous defence was exposed by Wolves in the Premier League last Sunday however and another erratic display from goalkeeper Gomes could spell trouble for the North London club.
Milan are in a rich vein of form but will miss the presence (however disruptive) of Gattuso who is serving a ban following a second yellow card picked up in the San Siro on a night the Italian international was guilty of losing his cool after the final whistle. Allegri may compensate for the loss of ‘the Rhino’ by adding a third deep-lying forward such as Pato or Robinho to partner Ibrahimovic. Former Arsenal player Flamini can expect a hot reception from the Spurs supporters after the midfielder sent Vedran Corluka to the treatment table with an over the top challenge in the first leg.
The enforced absence of both Kevin Prince Boateng and Andrea Pirlo means AC Milan’s midfield will be without three first team starters (I’m including Gattuso here) and Harry Redknapp will surely look to exploit this by placing Croatian international Modric in the heart of the his midfield quartet. Despite those injuries AC Milan are thirteen games unbeaten away from home and if the Italians can grab an early goal then expect a free-flowing encounter.
Tottenham’s best form of defence in the Champions League has been to attack. Utilising the pace of Lennon and Bale has reaped dividends but Spur’s defence frailty remains a worry which an experienced forward line such as AC Milan’s has the talent to exploit. Spurs’ to go through but expect plenty of drama and possibly extra time before Harry Redknapp’s side take their place in the last eight
Also on Wednesday evening:
Round of 16, Second leg
Arena AufSchalke, Gelsenkirchen
Schalke 04 vs. Valencia (1-1 from first leg)