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Tottenham-Milan Preview: Fielding 11 Players

I was so looking forward to the challenge: down an away goal, going into White Hart Lane with a stadium full of fans who make our Ultras look like baby kittens. Playing for survival and for some of our favorite players: Pippo, Pirlo, Ambrosini, and Gattuso, we would show this English side that Italians actually can play football at the highest level, and we would make Joe Jordan serve his own ban for the rest of the Champions League season by knocking those Spurs out.

For a good cause

Who knew that a little flu bug and a crazy midfielder called Melo could deplete our already injury-, ineligible-, and suspension-thinned squad? And the irony of it is that Bale and De Foe are healthy again for Tottenham, so Redknapp has plenty of options, whereas Allegri is left looking under benches in the dressing room for any extra players he’s forgotten about.

Still, I have to believe. For one, it is the Champions League. If there’s one thing Milan knows, it’s European Competitions. And truly, in the home fixture, we outplayed Tottenham. We had more possession and took more shots, it’s just that Gomes had a huge game in their net, so that little detail of a goal eluded us.

I also believe that when a team has a cause, they are more likely to prevail in these win-or-go-home circumstances. Our cause has 4 prongs: Pippo, who needs his European scoring record back from that Raul guy, the injured Pirlo and our captain Ambrosini, and the regrettably banned Gattuso.

It would take too long to guess at the creative lineups that Allegri is contemplating. (Bonera in the hole? Shudder!) I will say that I think Silva should play at center back this time, despite our sparse selection in the midfield. And I hope that Jankulovski wins the left back roulette again, despite possibly being able to play up front in the midfield. If Silva is not where he belongs or if Nesta is not available, I would like to see Legrottaglie play, as he has the experience to manage in a big match like this.

Flamini has to play, after taking Corluka out and getting away with it, he’s the closest that we’ve got to inciting Gattuso-level fear and may attract multiple players, freeing others up. Boateng is very unlikely, but I do believe in miracles. I think Merkel gets the start again, it’s sink or swim time, and I’m counting on him to swim like a shark.

Playing Seedorf makes me shudder, but maybe we’ll luck out and Allegri will save him for a sub again. He kind of acts like a clog in a drain by singlehandedly slowing down the pace of the game in the middle, even with fresh legs. So if it’s too frenetic & we are up, maybe he could be useful. He would also look very stoic on the bench as we win…..

Up front it will likely be Robinho & Ibrahimovic, unless Pato can recover and rehydrate in time to help us out. (Gatorade, little ducky. We need you.) Maybe he will come off the bench? We also need these guys to out-muscle and outrun those Spurs and find at least 2 goals for us. Are you hungry for European glory, Ibra?

With Antonini and Bonera fit, I think it is hoped that they will contract Pato’s flu rather than play. But still, if we need bodies to count up to 11…. maybe Antonini, but I would rather play 90 minutes on 10 men than put Bonera out there. There are very few players I would ever say this about, but Bonera is like a double agent - he wears the Milan jersey but plays to the advantage of the other team. Oddo is a warm body off of the bench if he’s healthy, just don’t expect him to cross anything besides himself when he steps onto the pitch.

Both Flamini and Yepes have yellow cards from the last match, and if we’re going in this to win, they will need to be extra careful not to accumulate any more cards so has not to hurt us in the next round.

Crouch gave us problems before and scored the away goal on a nice cross from Lennon. Adding DeFoe to the mix means our defense will be extra busy. But it is Abbiati who will especially need to be on his game. Amelia, coming on as a sub when Abbiati’s head met Crouch up close and personal, had 5 big saves in the last game. I am counting on Abbiati to show us he can do even better. (And to hopefully avoid Crouch’s skeletal structure!)

We can hope that Gomes’ big game last time was just a fluke. Their defense is probably their weakest area, so if we can maintain possession and get it forward, we should be able give them trouble. That is, if our own lack of finishing doesn’t finish us off.

Redknapp can go with a 4-4-1-1 again or the tried and true 4-4-2. Either way, he’s got quite the team to choose from. So for us, it will be a  simple matter of keeping Crouch and De Foe marked,keeping Bale in check, preventing Pienaar and Lennon from getting anything forward. Then just trying to play our game of possession and passing, hoping that the 11 we scrounge together can also manage to get it forward and take lots of shots on goal. Easy, right?

But at the end of the day, our primary concern has unfortunately become simply fielding a team who are healthy, not suspended, and eligible to play in  the Champions League. That is a very short list for us. We will need our boys to believe in our cause, plus a whole lot of good old fashioned luck.