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« European dreams | Main | Leave it out »

Vaart in the face of the Zlatan Zeppelin

Simply put:

Go to Milan. And attack.

I'm going to hazard a guess that they won't expect us to be that cheeky, all things considered (when you look at some of our away day performances and momentary hiccups). Defending away from home in Europe doesn't quite work out for us in terms of being negative and withdrawn to combat the home sides offensive. The aim is probably to soak in the pressure and counter. Theoretically it works. But we're a main man down on the flanks. And all-out defending is not the Tottenham way. Very much illustrated by the manner we go about our business when we play at the cauldron of White Hart Lane. Need to take it to them.

The benchmark should be that first half against Bremen. But the opposition this time round are just a bit better. And they have The Zlatan.

Let's just take a moment...

They said we wouldn't challenge for a Top 4 place.
They said we wouldn't finish in the Top 4.
They said we would choke.
They said we'd go out in the qualifying round.
They said we'd get thrashed in the group stage.
They said we'd...

You know what? Who cares what they said or continue to say. We have stormed it plain and simple. Sure, naive and at times calamitous, but it's been a stunning and refreshing journey of discovery for the players, the club and the fans.

Honestly, hand on heart, if you don't feel pride for what we've achieved in this campaign then you're a miserable git. We've done it the Tottenham way all the way. From the sublime to the ridiculous.

The whole point of finishing Top 4 - if you break down the dynamics of what it gives you by way of qualification - appears to be based around being part of a monopoly because traditionally, the 'top 4' rule the roost in terms of attracting world class players. The top end of the Prem is in a state of flux and nobody can quite predict how things will pan out over the next season or two. We might find that with each year it changes. No longer the same four clubs entering Europe's elite competition, but a time-share between five or six.

Regardless of the future, the present has some people already dismissing the knock-out stage double trouble fixture with AC Milan with the tagged on suggestion that finishing in the Top 4 is more important so that we're part of the adventure again next season. Apparently, we're not going to win so let it be and concentrate on making sure we find ourselves in the same position next time out.

Scratching your head like me, right?

Surely if you're going to be pessimistic you might as well just be damned with it all and proclaim to go down in a blaze of glory trying to beat every team you come up against. Tis a cup competition you know. Upsets, shocks. They happen. Destiny? It's in the hand of the one who believes the most.

Okay. I get it. Being part of the group stages sort of (hopefully) guarantees that your best players won't leave and status continues to grow. And if you consolidate a top four place you weaken someone else and it gradually builds towards possibly creating a gap of class in our favour with the unlucky team(s) that don't make it looking up at us. It's happened and it wasn't fun on the outside looking in.

But football is about these types of games. Meelan.

Back last season when we dropped points away to Everton and got beat away to Sunderland and the side just kept coming back..was it the dream of finally achieving a top four place or the dream of playing against Europe's top sides that made your heart skip beats? Back last season when Crouch scored that goal at Eastlands...all of it, the derby wins against the red and blue scum. The run-in. It gave us the keys to the door that opened a world of swashbuckling learning curves a breathtaking voyage of discovery. We just can't lose, what with it being our very first season in the competition. It's been a test to see exactly how we, the Champions League virgins, went about losing our cherry. And boy did we slut it up.

It's all about feeling pride and spin tingling excitement when the troops march out to that dizzying theme and into battle. It's no different tomorrow. And regardless of the obvious quality of Milan, I'd still be fairly gutted if we lose/go out of the competition.

We're contenders again for the top four, and if we were perhaps more fortunate with injuries and even signed ourselves a top class forward (if if if) it could have been a little more comfortable a challenge. Plenty of hard work to be had domestically, but that adrenaline you get from momentum, it's golden.

Top four is important. But tomorrow, nothing else will really matter other than the ninety minutes ahead of us. We are involved because we are deserving of it and we I'm sure the players understand the importance of carving out yet another magical footnote to the 2011 season.

We've done superbly well to get out of the group stages. Even the neutrals have loved our participation and our mantra to entertain (be it not always planned). Plaudits here plaudits there plaudits everywhere.

Nobody expects us to get past Milan (few do). Plenty of chat that pin points the fact that we are no longer an unknown entity. Teams know what to expect. I have not a clue how the Italians plan to line-up (in terms of tactics) against us but would guess they will go for the jugular. Strong hard-working midfield, creativity up front. It's tasty. Don't want to see us on the back-foot for 90 minutes, so the work rate of our middle four will have to match theirs.

Away goal anyone? We might remain depleted (Bale out, JJ suspended, Modric - not sure, vdV - expected to play) in key areas. We might be outclassed by the simplistic virtue that they have a better standard of players. No standing back and watching in awe please Mr Dawson. Get stuck in.

Hoping to see the ilk of performance we displayed at home to Inter. Not so much with the type of oomph you would possess as the home side taking the initiative, but more the discipline and concentration that might aid us in frustrating and upsetting the hosts whilst applying ample pressure on them. Making them defend enough to turn it into a contest rather than a mauling ala first half capitulation last time out in Italy (4-0 down).

Will be fascinating to see self-proclaimed greatest player Ibra and Pato up against Dawson and Gallas. The there's the experience of Flamini, Gattuso and Seedorf up against Palacios, Modric (fingers crossed) and Lennon and Niko. Milan likely to play three in the middle and three up top (Ibra, Pato, Robinho). Doubtful we'd start with Sandro and Wilson - that would encourage the wrong attitude. Pienaar in with a shout in place of Niko another possibility, but why drop someone bang in form?

Rafa's return, imperative. Modric equally so. Two out of three will have to do.

Attack. Controlled and focused. What's the worst that can happen?

Okay, right, where's the Imodium?

Would still rather get knocked out giving it a right proper go than conceding defeat by allowing fear to consume us.

It's the Champions League. We know, on our day, we can turn it on. I'd expect us to do just that back at the Lane. As for Tuesday, don't sit back, go for their jugular. No Gareth to bale us out this time, hoping we get to unleash him in the return. Might work out in our favour. The unexpected. What with all the pre-match hype usually geared towards how to defend against the Welsh juggernaut.

Width is going to be an issue (if I return to the painful truths of reality) so here's hoping they don't double-up on Azza. They probably don't rate him much like Fabio.




Kranjčar  (Pienaar)

van der Vaart
Pav (Defoe)


They've got players missing too (injuries and cup-tied) but it's hardly going to make the task any easier. Much like us, their defence is not as great as their attack. Although if I'm honest, it's been a stalemate this season when deciding whether we're offensively or defensively best. Milan, they can be got at.

So, heads high, chin up, chest pumped out. Belief and tenacity. It's 90 minutes. Then it's a Glory Glory night in the cauldron back in N17. I'd take the score draw. I'd even accept a 2-1 loss. I'd rather have the moon on a stick.

Best team wins. Show some heart Tottenham.

To dare is to do 'em.





Reader Comments (53)

Harry will pick Crouchy up front for definate

Feb 14, 2011 at 3:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterBlock 39

Bale is out as we all know, I think Spurs are bullshitting about vdV. He'll be fit. Modric is the key. Without him we'll struggle.

Crouch out for sure then?

Feb 14, 2011 at 3:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Machine

Is there a single Spurs player that isn't in doubt for the game? I'm hearing Crouch has a back injury still. Hope he's fit to play.

Feb 14, 2011 at 3:46 PM | Unregistered Commenteralt ctrl del

while already is expected to play, looks like vdv is a lock now -

Feb 14, 2011 at 3:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterDC Spurs

Block 39 - I thought I heard on the BBC on Saturday that Crouch wasn't fit to play. If you know what I mean.

11 men on the pitch this time. Don't be so bloody sloppy from the off.

Just been down to the bank, got my Euros. Stanstead 5.30 tomorrow morning. Woohoo!

Feb 14, 2011 at 3:51 PM | Unregistered Commenterhoopspur

Would agree normally, but this is a 2 leg affair.
Obviously our best chance of getting through this 2-legged-tie is to rely on our attacking instincts for the most part, as our defence isnt quite "Italy 2006" that's for sure.

Bit of controlled caution at the san siro (by this i dont mean stand and watch as we get ripped a 'new one' per the last trip to meelan), then a blitz back at the lane!

Feb 14, 2011 at 3:51 PM | Unregistered Commentergra

Great stuff spooky.. see you all there in the middle of the Curva Nord, signing my heart out till the very last seconds.... me knees gone all trembley dem...COYS!

Feb 14, 2011 at 3:54 PM | Unregistered Commenterbentleys pants

To everyone going.

Have a good one. You lucky bastards.

Take some pics and share also. Need more 'Spurs on Tour' images for the gallery.

Feb 14, 2011 at 4:09 PM | Registered Commenterspooky

Caution going forward, I'd agree with the controlled attacking Spooky. I still worry they have enough up front to cause as far too may problems. They have three attack minded players coming straight for us. We have Pav.

I'm sure that's how they plan to attack us, controlled measures of hurt. We need to be canny.

Fan of the football ramble any chance?

Feb 14, 2011 at 4:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterDictator

There's no way Modders will play so soon after the appendectomy, so expect a defensive-minded central midfield pair (Palacious/Pienaar?), unless Arry sticks Niko in there - which is very doubtful. COYS!

Feb 14, 2011 at 4:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeanut

Definitely should not attack from the off. We should frustrate them for the first 15 mins without inviting them to put us under the cosh. We don't want another Inter/Young boys away. As we find our feet in the game, we should progressively get more attacking. regarding top four chase, it may be interesting to know that we have 4 more points than last season after 26 games (47), AND Citeh have EXACTLY THE SAME amount of points (49) this year as opposed to last year after 27 games. In theory, Man City have not improved despite signing Balotelli, Dzeko (only 5 games so far), Silva, Boateng, Yaya - and sacked Hughes because he did not get enough points - even though it is the same as what Mancini is getting... All this without some of our best players being injured. This is great, and quite frankly, all I hope for is that we give a good account of ourselves vs Milan.

Feb 14, 2011 at 4:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterTonyRich

I doubt VdV will be good to go in this match, neither do I think Bale and Modric. My hope is our players have now gotten over their stage fright. We have to take the bull by the horn and go on the attach as you said, Spooky, and put Meelan on the back feet. If we can avoid going down 2 or 3 goals in the first 15 mins then we should be fine and get away with a decent result. My lineup will be like this:

Gomes (behave, no more mad moves)
Coruluka * Daws (will prefer Bassong) * Gallas * BAE
Lennon * Sandro * Pienaar * Kranjcar (you can't leave him on the bench surely)
Defoe (Rose if available) * Pav (if Crouch is still nursing injury)

Feb 14, 2011 at 4:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterIaG

Good article Spooky. Let's hope we seize the moment.


Feb 14, 2011 at 4:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterFrancois

Milan, 7 times Champions of Europe.

I'm buzzing for it.

Feb 14, 2011 at 4:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterJep

Yeah, not suggesting we go out like manics and leave masses of open space. Attack minded, look to score, get them to have to attack and open them game up so we can then push forward with more intent.

It's a tricky one to work out because Milan might try to pick us off or just really push into us - so mental strength again the key (looking back at the last time we played there).

Would take a 2-2, and a 3-1 win at home.

Just feel without Modric and vdV we might struggle. 3-1 defeat might just be too much for us to stand a chance to come back. Then again...this is Tottenham.

Feb 14, 2011 at 4:24 PM | Registered Commenterspooky


let's do 'em 4-0 so we can field a weakened team in the home leg to concentrate on the league!

lingua fermamente in guancia, vorrei anche prendere un due una vittoria e rubare una sola vittoria a zero alla corsia cuore bianco...

Feb 14, 2011 at 5:28 PM | Unregistered Commenterbringbackmabbutt

I know its unusual away and in Europe but surely with the options we have we should play 4-4-2 and go at them.

Same Back 5 as Spooks then Lennon, Palacios, VDV, Modric/Krank then Defoe & Pav up front


Feb 14, 2011 at 6:09 PM | Unregistered Commenterstevo

Really don't think bale, mods or vdv will play, if vdv does would be a big gamble and can see him going off injured and throw the missing hudds into the mix and the midfield is down too bare bones but we are super tottenham and if were going down go down fighting!! ( then rip em apart at the lane). My starting X1

Corluka daws banana boots bae

Lennon pieneer palacious kranks

Defoe pav (crouch)

Bare bones but COYMFS

Feb 14, 2011 at 6:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe glory boys

Just need to make sure we are still in contention for the second leg which is 3 weeks away.
By then, we could have everyone bar Hudd available.
Looks like they have a few players missing tomorrow.
Just hope we don't freeze again.

Feb 14, 2011 at 6:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterDAVID

'Plenty of chat that pin points the fact that we are no longer an unknown entity. Teams know what to expect.'
I agree that this is the opinion of many - ironic really since we Spurs fans never have any idea what to expect!
Nerves have already consumed me...

Feb 14, 2011 at 7:49 PM | Unregistered Commenterjbeds

Wear the right boots from the start, fly out the blocks, hunt em down, get in their faces, maintain that high tempo (they don't like it up em), follow ur men, don't let em settle... or we could just sit back, stay disciplined and defend in numbers (eek)... perhaps a healthy balance of both. And when we have the ball we need to work even harder to keep it, ball retention and patience is the key... collectively!

No time to hide, gotta man up, demand the ball and deliver...

We've got the players, no doubt... gotta believe we can win, that's the Tottenham way!

Feb 14, 2011 at 8:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterDY

I'm sure at most pubs in London there will be plenty of Yids coming out the wood work to watch the Milan game but does anyone know any good pubs in W1/Soho. I normally watch games at The One Tun on Goodge Street as they normally have a good turn out of Yids but that pub usually has a quiz on Tuesdays so if that happens I need a back up. Any ideas most welcome COYS!

Feb 14, 2011 at 9:42 PM | Unregistered Commenterdpac73

DPAC73 - You could always join me, hiding behind the sofa!
Nerves are kicking in already.
Dreading the thought we may freeze as in the Inter and Young Boys games.

Feb 14, 2011 at 10:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterDAVID

This seems fitting dpac73:

The Hope(!) on Tottenham(!) Street just off of Tottenham(!) Court Road. Haven't been there for years, but it had a big screen, good beer, a bit small though.

Feb 14, 2011 at 10:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterMark

We're made for this competition. I expect the same as last time- a terrible, nervous start, coming back into it, probably a 1 or 2 goal deficit, then a mind blowing classic at the Lane. I've set aside fear, as long as we go down fighting. For me, 4th place is the target this season. I want more of this. May God help us all. Tie yourselves down Godammit!

Feb 14, 2011 at 11:17 PM | Unregistered Commenterjohnnycheshunt

Well for the 1st leg of the Inter match I watched it in Bar Italia of all places! I was with a fellow yid, a gooner and a citeh fan. It was quite humiliating although the Italians were okay. Needless to say I turned to my Spurs mate and said let's find a pub without football. So we all left at half time and had one more somewhere else and parted ways with two of us pretty gutted. So I jumped on a tube to my mate's pub in Lancaster Gate but he wasn’t there so I just resigned myself to the slow walk home and fear of what the final score was going to be when I got a text from a Chelsea mate saying ‘Get in Yiddo!’ so now I’m confused and tried to find out what the devil he was on about. He told me it was 4-2 so now I’m in a rush to get to a pub but by the time I got to one it was all over. So I missed what is now referred to as ‘Part 1 of the Gareth Bale Inter Show’.

DAVID - I sympathise with the hiding behind sofa option what with all the injuries but having said that I haven’t been confident about our chances in the last few games after the Fulham debacle but Spurs managed to grit it out. So here’s hoping the boys that are fit to play can pull out another backs to the wall performance.

Cheers Mark. Yeah I know The Hope and considering it is on Tottenham Street it could be a good omen. I wrote a funny comment tying in all the Tottenham connections in the West End during all that pointless (shh!) stadium talk; as you know the only pub on the whole of Oxford Street is called the Tottenham. There aren’t any streets in the West End called Arsenal, Chelsea, West Ham or Stratford only Tottenham, hehe! COYS!!!

Feb 14, 2011 at 11:19 PM | Unregistered Commenterdpac73

Milan will score but I can see us doing the same. Case of how many we leak. 2-1, 3-2 anything like that will do us fine for the return.

Feb 14, 2011 at 11:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterGrim down south

Right I'm going to meditate to calm myself before our beloved Spurs inevitably put us all through the ringer for 90 minutes. Think positive thoughts :)

PS: here is a taste of what the One Tun was like in the race for fourth last season

Feb 15, 2011 at 12:07 AM | Unregistered Commenterdpac73

Dismantle, Dessimate, and Destroy.

Take them by the neck from the get go and throttle them into next week.


Feb 15, 2011 at 3:44 AM | Unregistered Commenterbig sky spur

We will need all 11 (men 10.5 if Defoe plays). No wild challenges in the box. Can't wait.

Feb 15, 2011 at 6:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterTMWNN


I'm a mixture of nervous and buzzing today.

Feb 15, 2011 at 7:56 AM | Registered Commenterspooky

12hours to go, today is going to drag.

Not sure how to approach this, one midfield battle will be key and they have players out so sure he will play 4-5-1, Palacios, Lennon, Niko, Piennarr, VDV would be my guess.

Then Defoe for movement or Crouch for an out? Have a feeling Pav would show something if played.

As long as the game is close tonight it will be ours back at the lane.

Feb 15, 2011 at 7:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterDiaz

'No wild challenges in the box'

That is the only thing im worried about, I just want the game to be about our football vs there football. I dont want us to be down to 9 men after five minutes.

Score prediction = 2-1 to us.

Feb 15, 2011 at 9:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterChrisYid

This is what it's all about. What a game to look forward to. Haven't had butterflies like this since I was on the E plan diet. COYS

Feb 15, 2011 at 9:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterLemonadeMoney

going to be a very difficult game this , am pretty scared of Zlatan actually , the man is a machine on his day ...

Feb 15, 2011 at 10:37 AM | Unregistered Commenterbelgian spur

Italian football isn't what it used to be but it still is AC Milan , on of the greatest football clubs ever ... exciting stuff this

Feb 15, 2011 at 10:39 AM | Unregistered Commenterbelgian spur

Fortunately, it's only a 91.5% of a full-moon tonight over Milan, so Gomes will not be totally mad!

Let's hope the lads come out of the traps fighting from the first whistle, play high-tempo and force the game.

Would prefer Sandro to Palacios for this one.


Feb 15, 2011 at 10:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterDaveK

Meelan are one of the top clubs in world football. Amazing night up ahead.


Feb 15, 2011 at 10:45 AM | Registered Commenterspooky

THESE are the games that we fought for over 38 premiership encounters last season.
THESE are the games that we battled back against Young Boys to get.
THESE are the games that have us fans absolutely bricking it!!
THESE are the games we want to have every season.

I'm nervous, but it's an excited nervous rather than a "oh joy, 4-0 defeat here we come" nervous.
We're severely depleted through injuries, but we've been the same for the last 3 games and come away with 9 points.
We have a TEAM now, rather than individuals (though some would question JD). It's a team with grit and determination, who don't let their heads drop when they go a goal down (or even 4). They're a team who will not simply give up - they will do what they can for their fans.
Granted, Milan are a different proposition to Blackburn, Bolton & Sunderland, but the flip side is that they're an attacking side who can be caught out on the break. If we can catch a counter that involves VdV's brain, and then pace of Lennon and Defoe then who knows what can happen (other than row Z from JD).

Most importantly is that it's over two legs, not a one off. It means that we can probably come back with a 2 goal defecit and still have a half decent chance of progressing the the 1/4 finals.

My team for tonight, based on injuries:

Corluka, Gallas, Dawson, BAE
Palacios, Sandro
Lennon, Pienaar, Kranjcar

Would rather we sat with Wilson & Sandro just filling the gap between defence and midfield, doing a job on Robinho.
Modric & VdV can be sat on the bench, coming on with 20 mins to go if we're REALLY in the shit.
BBC are raving about the Ibrahimovic/Robinho partnership, but I'm not particularly worried.
After all, Robinho couldn't cut it with the pace of the Premiership.


Feb 15, 2011 at 11:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterWalkerboy


Feb 15, 2011 at 11:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterThe Machine

Walkerboy , Robinho at home is a whole different player and Zlatan is one of the best forwards in the modern game , without a doubt

Feb 15, 2011 at 11:53 AM | Unregistered Commenterbelgian spur

I'm sure Robinho is a different prospect now, but again, he's playing in a league which is at a pace he prefers.
He couldn't cope with the cut and thrust of the Premiership and struggled with the physicality of opposition midfielders and defenders. For that reason alone, lets just hope we have a ref who isn't going to give freekicks for the slightest touch.

I'd still ensure either Wilson or Sandro did a man-marking job on him, just to keep him occupied.

As for Ibrahimovic, no doubt he's a top notch finisher. He also tends to make the most of a poor first touch.
Weren't we all bricking it about facing Sneijder and Eto'o????

Feb 15, 2011 at 12:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterWalkerboy


Feb 15, 2011 at 12:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterTMWNN

hehe i love your optimism Walkerboy , no fear and all that , but Zlatan and a poor first touch ? That's a bridge too far for me. And Sneijder and Eto'o made life difficult for us when we were over there , didnt' they

Anyway , i really hope you are spot on with your remarks , that we hammer them tonight and show the world that our first round exploits weren't a fluke.

Feb 15, 2011 at 12:09 PM | Unregistered Commenterbelgian spur


Here goes

I'm punting for a 0-0 at the moment




JD (to run the channels and bring Rafa into play)

Wilson and Sandro does not have total negative connotations - sandro attacking wise is rather good tbh and is a better bet in there than Niko or Stevie P

Not much work getting done today...lots of pricks telling me we are gonna get hammered.

Feb 15, 2011 at 12:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterTomtraubert

Anyone hoping Crouch is fit to play?

Feb 15, 2011 at 12:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterLemonadeMoney

Bricking it.

Feb 15, 2011 at 12:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterGeneral Brickhouse

Belgian - I'm just trying to be optimistic, seeing the light in the tunnel rather than the blackness surrounding it.....
It's one of those games where we're expected to lose, and often we've proven those to be the games we perform best in.

Feb 15, 2011 at 12:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterWalkerboy

Good luck my Tottiham friends..

I am predicting 2-1 to the Milan, but Tottiham to get through in London. Be careful of the camel nose Zlatan fellow.

I hope Niko play, he is nice boy and would make good huband for Hozni, not that camel face Mr Grant.

Now I find this site talking NDP I start watching Tottiham. I like Niko and the dutch boy with the big arse.

Goodbye and remember...the barking of a dog does not disturb the man on a camel.

Feb 15, 2011 at 1:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterMubarak's Mum

Who can argue with that?

Niko must start tonight, otherwise what kind of a message does that send?

I fully expect a typical Tottenham start - early goal conceded, early penalty, early red card or combination of all three. We will have some tightly planned tactical game we have never tried before from the first whistle, then when we go behind it will get immediately ditched and we will come away with a 2-1 or 3-1 defeat with all eyes on the home leg. VDV limps off after 60 mins. Palacios at full back for the last ten minutes or some other such nonsense.


Feb 15, 2011 at 1:18 PM | Unregistered Commenter555

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