AC dicey for Harry
Thommo says Spurs are in for a tricky time in the San Siro - but should go through over the two legs.
Last Updated: 15/02/11 12:38pm
The news that Gareth Bale has been ruled out will work two ways.
Firstly it will give AC Milan a boost; they saw what he did against Inter in the San Siro, where he ripped them to pieces and knowing they don't have to face him will give the whole side a lift.
Secondly it will work the other way for Tottenham. They have got by alright without him in the Premier League but alright is a far cry from Bale in full flow down that left flank against the best in Europe.
He has been the real shining light for them this season and when they have looked for, or needed, something different, it has usually been him that's come to their rescue. They might need something special on Tuesday night because this is the big game for Tottenham, this is the one that will decide if they make the quarter-finals.
I'll say now I have absolutely no doubt that they will beat AC Milan at White Hart Lane, it's just whether they can get enough of a result in the first leg.
And make no mistake, this is a very good AC side. They have quality in all positions and the new coach, Massimiliano Allegri - who no-one had barely heard of when he was appointed - has pretty much resurrected their season.
Where this guy has come from I don't know, but my goodness what a job he's done. Sitting at the top of Serie A, they have not lost in nine and they are a different side to the one we have seen in Europe for the last couple of years.
They looked a spent force, a side that was suddenly very, very old and struggling for players. I know they have Andrea Pirlo, Massimo Ambrosini and Filipo Inzaghe injured and Mark van Bommel and Antonio Cassano unavailable and some familiar faces still in their squad, but this is a different side, believe me.
Their midfield problems pretty much cancel out Spurs' own absentees in there, but I think Harry Redknapp will be hoping against hope that Rafael van der Vaart is fit. If he is, he is the one man that means they can go to the San Siro and play their natural formation, the one they have almost stumbled upon since his signing.
Harry used to be a 4-4-2 or 4-5-1 man, but with Van der Vaart in there as an auxiliary striker, usually just off Peter Crouch, 4-4-1-1 has become the Spurs way and that is suited to playing away from home in Europe. Van der Vaart, as we all know, has a goal in him but will also drop into midfield when they need to defend.
They will need to as well, because I expect AC Milan to have more possession of the ball. They do have genuine talent in Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Alexandre Pato and Robinho to call on in attack and although none of them convince me away from home - I happen to think they're fly-by-night footballers who shine when their side is on top - in the San Siro they are a genuine threat.
I have no problem with either William Gallas or Michael Dawson in central defence, but the keeper Heurelho Gomes does worry me. He is what I call cabbage and caviar; one minute he will make a world-class save, then make a mess of a routine cross. As a central defender I know how unsettling that can be and it is not good for Spurs, because this might well be a case of bit of damage limitation.
That doesn't mean I expect them to get blown away. Their last trip to the San Siro will have taught them the valuable lesson that against the big teams, on the big stage, you have to be on your toes from the word go. But I do think keeping the scoreline close will be the main aim.
Of course, Spurs have it in them to surprise AC and without Bale, Aaron Lennon will be crucial as the out-ball, an outlet they will need to use on the counter, I am sure. But I think they will have to take a defeat on Tuesday - and make sure it is one they can overturn back at White Hart Lane.
THOMMO'S VERDICT: I do think this a different Milan side to the one we have seen over the past couple of years and at home, they are very strong. I can see them winning this by the odd goal but I've got to say, if I were Spurs I would snap your hand off if you offered me that, no problem. Of course 2-1 would be great, with that away goal, but I'll go for 1-0 - which will not be enough to stop Spurs going through in the second leg.