Harry Redknapp has confirmed Gareth Bale’s back injury will almost certainly keep him out of Tuesday’s Champions League tie with AC Milan.
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The 21-year-old winger has had a sparkling first half to the season – highlighted by a brilliant hat-trick in Tottenham’s 4-3 group-stage defeat to Inter Milan on their first trip to the San Siro – but is struggling for Tuesday’s clash with a back injury.
Asked whether Bale would feature against the Serie A leaders, Redknapp told Sky Sports News: "No. He’s struggling, to be truthful.
"I’d like to be able to scare Milan a bit and say he’s going to be available but he’s struggling to get over this back injury.
"The specialists don’t see too much of a problem that should keep him out too long.
"(But) we’re going to make sure he’s right. He’s a young lad and got a great future in front of him.
"We couldn’t take a chance. He doesn’t feel he’s ready to play. We’ll leave it to him.
"He came up yesterday when we were at Sunderland and worked with the fitness coaches. When they started to push him a bit he couldn’t go on and didn’t feel right so they had to go back a few steps and start again."
Croatia playmaker Luka Modric also looks set to miss out, having undergone an operation to remove his appendix only 12 days ago.
"He trained this morning and felt a bit better again but to push him back into it would be difficult," Redknapp said. "He’s not quite up to speed yet."
There was better news regarding Holland midfielder Rafael van der Vaart, who has been struggling with a calf strain, but still a big question mark over England striker Peter Crouch.
"[Van der Vaart] should be fit," said Redknapp. "Crouch is touch and go. His back’s a bit of a problem – we’re not sure he’s going to be fit."
Redknapp also confirmed that Sandro and Wilson Palacios would form his central midfield partnership, with Tom Huddlestone injured and Jermaine Jenas suspended.
"[Sandro] will be playing, for sure, because I’ve only got two central midfielders," he said. "We’ve got to wrap them in cotton wool and they’ll be playing."
Another midfielder definitely available and in contention will be Modric’s international team-mate Niko Kranjcar.
The 26-year-old, who might have left White Hart Lane last month, produced a stunning finish to see off Sunderland on Wearside a week after accounting for Bolton in similar fashion to make light of Bale’s continued absence.
With Kranjcar having responded superbly to his chance, Redknapp admitted he might have included him even if Bale was fit.
He said: "I could always stick Niko somewhere else if Gareth was fit because Niko deserves his place in the team.
"He’s a top player. He spends time after training every day.
"Every day, he is on the training ground after he finishes doing a half-hour’s practice.
"His dad was a top player – his dad is now the manager of Montenegro. He has been brought up with the game.
"He practises, so it is not coincidence that he can strike a ball. His technique is great."
Kranjcar’s decisive intervention at the Stadium of Light came 12 minutes after the break as his side recovered from an ordinary opening 45 minutes to assume control.
Asamoah Gyan had given the home side an 11th-minute lead with his 10th goal of the season, although Redknapp was less than impressed with the fact that central defender William Gallas was off the pitch at the time changing his boots.
Redknapp was delighted at the resilience his side showed to fight back from a losing position once again.
He said: "We have done it more than anybody in the league, I would think, this year. We have come from behind so many times.
"We go behind and we keep going, and that’s what you have to do.
"But I would rather not go behind. I would rather get in front to start with.
"I just felt if we could get a goal back, we had a good chance. We came in at 1-1 and I fancied us to win at half-time. I thought we could go on and win it."
Redknapp headed south ready to start his preparations for a big night in Italy and already looking forward to the game.
He said: "We have been in great form. They [AC Milan] had a big win – they beat Parma 4-0.
"Tim Sherwood went over with Les Ferdinand for me and I will speak to them on the way home and tomorrow and get a report on what they saw.
"I went last week and watched them and they are a dangerous side. They have got some real quality players.
"The front three have all got goals in them – Robinho, [Alexandre] Pato, [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic – they are top-class players.
"It will be a big test, but I think we have got a big chance. I think we have got a real chance and I am looking forward to it."