AC Milan and Tottenham struggling for midfielders

BY foxsports • February 14, 2011

AC Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri and Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp both have major injury problems in midfield ahead of Tuesday's Champions League last-16 match.

Milan is without captain Massimo Ambrosini, playmaker Andrea Pirlo and Kevin-Prince Boateng, while Tottenham is likely to play Wilson Palacios and Sandro because they are the only fit central midfielders available.

Tottenham winger Gareth Bale is the main absentee. The Wales international, who scored a hat trick at the San Siro against Inter Milan in the group stage, is recovering from a back injury.

"I'd like to scare Milan a bit and say he's available, but he's not. He's struggling to get over the back injury," Redknapp said. "They (the medical staff) don't see too much of a problem there, nothing that will keep him out too long.

"Obviously he is a big loss for us. We tried to push him on, but he broke down on Saturday morning and we couldn't take a chance on him."

Redknapp will also be without the injured Tom Huddlestone and suspended Jermaine Jenas, but Redknapp hopes Rafael van der Vaart and Luka Modric can play some part in the match.

"Rafa's OK after his calf strain," Redknapp said. "Luka Modric has had an appendix operation about 10 days ago and it is still sore for him. He joined in training yesterday and will do a bit tonight, but I can't see him starting the game."

Niko Kranjcar is expected to fill Bale's space on the left. He hit the winning goal in Spurs' 2-1 victory over Sunderland on Saturday, his second winner in as many matches.

"Niko popped up with another fantastic goal and it is something he practices after training every day," Redknapp said. "He's a top, top player.

"People like Niko have waited for their chance. He came back and scored against Bolton and scored again against Sunderland on Saturday. But he's played on the big stage before and played internationally for Croatia. It has just been unfortunate for him that Gareth Bale has been in such good form."

Allegri can at least count on the form of the experienced Clarence Seedorf to provide direction to his midfield, which is likely to feature defender Thiago Silva in a holding role.

Seedorf - the only player to win three Champions League titles with three different teams - set Milan on its way to a 4-0 win at home to Parma on Saturday with the first goal of the game.

"Seedorf is an incomparable player and he is wonderfully elegant," Silva said. "I'm not really happy about playing central midfield, but there is the need for me to do so and so I will do it.

"In truth, I'm happier playing alongside Alessandro Nesta in defense, but I am ready to put myself at the service of the team and play where the coach wants me to."

Memories of Bale's hat trick against Inter and his performance in the return match at White Hart Lane are still fresh in Italy, with the Italian press often linking him with a move to the San Siro.

"Even though Bale has been missing, Tottenham has done well in their last few games, even without him," Allegri said. "Spurs is a powerful team, well organized, has good spirit and some technically gifted players.

"It is the last 16 of the Champions League and therefore it will be a very difficult across the 180 minutes. (Aaron) Lennon is an excellent player, fast and with great control. (Jermain) Defoe and (Peter) Crouch are important in attack, and the whole team is physically strong."

Milan is in confident mood going into the match as the win over Parma continued its strong run of form, extending the Serie A leader's unbeaten run to 10 games in all competitions.

"This is the best preparation for Tuesday's match," Seedorf said. "It is the Champions League last 16 and we know who is in or out.

"We will need courage, concentration and quality to get through. This result means we are well prepared both in how we are playing and with our team spirit."

Spurs demonstrated in the group stages what a dangerous force they are in attack, the team joining north London rival Arsenal as the leading scorers in the competition with 18 goals.

"We have to make sure we're solid and we can't be too gung-ho," Redknapp said. "I'd have a problem setting a team up to defend, as I just haven't got the players in those positions.

"We want to come back from here and make sure we're in the game when we get back to White Hart Lane. Tottenham's European nights are great and we have proved that when we are on our game, we are a match for anyone."


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