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Entries in away day (13)


Soton, away


LLLLWLDL, 3rd from bottom.

They've conceded more goals than anyone in Premier League history at this point in the season.

They can't handle being attacked down the flanks.

Gareth Bale returning to his former club.

They're newly promoted otherwise refereed to as 'ominous'.

Tottenham have lost and failed to score in all of their previous four Premier League games against Soton at St Mary's (1-0 each time). Also got dicked 4-0 in the Cup there.

It's just stats, right? None of the above is applicable. Aside from the obvious deficiencies the hosts have festering in their top flight misadventure.

Spurs to dominate game and win easily?


Dare to predict?


Turn up, turn on, turn them over

Maribor away. Must win. You would hardly have expected this game to be so important before our Europa League campaign kicked off. Something has been lost in translation. Last season this competition was practically dismissed and treated with little respect. This season, all the right words have been spouted in the lead up to it and the games played but the performances have been lacking the will and desire (aside from perhaps the Lazio match). Can't blame selection, the sides have always been strong if not quite full strength. Have these European fixtures simply fallen victim to our early season learning curve? We'll find out this evening thanks to the fact that even though it's a group match, it should really play out as a knock out cup game.

Our hosts are up for it. They want everyone to know who they are. Whether they have the quality to upset us is something that will be answered in a few short hours. Their ultras will bring intensity to the atmosphere, we'll have to match it on the field. It's that simple. Turn up, turn on, turn them over.

Villas-Boas seems to be aware of the games importance. We've got no Dembele, Bale or Adebayor. Livermore, Huddlestone and Sigurdsson to (possibly) all feature with Falque, Townsend and Dempsey as other potential selections. Dawson in at the back paired up with Vertonghen and possibly the return of Naughton? Not my problem who plays, just want to see commitment and professionalism.

And I want to be entertained. And win by two clear goals. Bully the opposition. Out class them.

Not a lot then. Just one or two niceties.


Squad: Lloris, Cudicini, Naughton, Walker, Caulker, Gallas, Dawson, Vertonghen, Smith, Livermore, Parrett, Huddlestone, Sandro, Sigurdsson, Lennon, Townsend, Falque, Dempsey, Defoe.


Away to The Shamrock

Panathinaikos sound a touch miserable. Poor league form (DDLDW), captain ‘sacked’, two points deducted thanks to their fans behaviour last season and a 3-0 stuffing against Maribor in the Europa League. Now here’s a club with a fair few domestic trophies in genuine turmoil. This won’t be a clash of the Titans. But hopeful they will feel our wrath.

(and with any luck our performance will be more fluid than the last couple of sentences)

At least that’s the plan according to Andre Villas Boas who is determined to have a crack at this undervalued competition. We should line up with a fair amount of strength and confidence. Lloris between the sticks possibly the only change if we want to turn up and leave them in ruins. But more than likely we’ll see a similar side to the one that faced Lazio.

We’re making do quite well. VB is keeping it tight with selections and we can still look forward to the likes of Parker, Benny and Kaboul returning to the fold in the near future. All arguably first team ‘regulars’ – although whether they’re first choice by the time they’re back we’ll have to wait and see. Parker might have trouble dislodging Sandro but he’ll bring some extra bite for games that require it.

Add to them the likes of Smith, Townsend, Mason, Carroll and Falque (all available now) and we have a far more cohesive unit than we did last time out. A more solid blend of youth and seasoned quality. Last season consisted of a mis-match of benched players and others stuck somewhere between limbo and loan. Feels like so much more preparation has gone into it this time around.

Let’s not be forgetting the likes of Dawson and Huddlestone. The latter almost lost to Stoke. We might not have pound-for-pound replacements for certain first team positions but there’s more than enough about us to hassle and bully our way out of the group stages.

Livermore and Naughton still not available, Adebayor has only trained once – so the metamorphosis of Jermain Defoe will continue, from moth to butterfly. Although in Europe and importantly against Panathinaikos we could be treated to Dempsey up top again (although away from home, we might need a bit more in forward positions, so Dempsey behind Defoe will suit us well).

I’m actually fascinated by all this as it serves to delve deeper into the thinking of our coach. Does he select based on managing the fitness of key players with the league games in mind but without surrendering the chance of victory or does he involve players that will slowly be able to cover those same key players in the league – thus giving us a robust machine ready for any occasion. Rather than one that slows down with rust if it happens to rain?

Sigurdsson is one player I’d personally like to see involved at some point. If anything to get his career in Lilywhite kick-started as he’s so far struggled to find a groove.

Should be decent game for us. Should be a decent win.




Lennon - called up for England. Deserving, but once again, first thing that came to mind was: Don't get yourself injured. Same goes for our other selected men in Lilywhite. Be safe.


Get it done

Sunderland away. The last of the difficult fixtures we have. Not a favourite away trip in recent years (although we won there last season). They always seem to dick us or we manage to dick ourselves. If I wish to flirt with negativity then I could (reluctantly) label this game as the very last one we can afford to drop points in. Won't be easy, will be physical. But its probably best we best the Mackems and take all three. Winning a game where perhaps most would admit to be content with a point would set us up perfectly for the remaining ones. It's probably more important to perform and win here than to worry about performing and winning next weekend against Chelsea in the cup semi-final. We're more likely to compete with them at Wembley, whereas today's game against Sunderland is far more pressured.

So in reality away from pre-match predictions, we can't afford to drop any points.

We've got a balanced side again with confident players and the belief is back. Martin O'Neils side is organised and committed. They are blowing hot and cold currently but any self-doubt from us we'll be duly punished for it. Got to be on form. If we win, 3rd is most definitely back on. If we don't then every game left is a cup final (to be hopefully accompanied by an actual cup final in May).

Norwich at home follows in a blink of an eye, so it's not just about mental strength but also physical. Harrry's selection and substitutions will be pivotal in navigating the momentum. And with that cup semi on its way, there's also game-by-game focus required from the players so please no day dreaming Tottenham. Get it done.

Bum <-- Squeaky time.



Things I want to see today

In no particular order.


Three points. Absolutely no room for complacency and excuses. Look at the table. A win (and another against Swansea) going into the WBA home game sets up January to be the pivotal month of the season before the hard slog kicks in. Psychologically, this is big. Not Godzilla big. Dinosaur big. We simply cannot freeze, extinction is out of the question. Resilience please.

Ruthlessly clinical up front. None of this Andy Cole ‘its takes five chances to score one’ teaser football. Either pass the ball into the back of the net or smash it in. There’s no room left for pretenders now, only contenders. Otherwise, we'll left anchored, cannonball away from sinking.

Luka Modric. In the middle.

Unequivocal focus and professionalism. We have stunning quality. On paper we should be trouncing the likes of Norwich. Paper won’t fly unless you make an aeroplane out of it. So fly Tottenham, fly. The last thing I want is an origami canary, smug smile, staring at my despairing face.

Rafa van der Vaart to be effective for at least 80 minutes. What? It's still sort of Christmas, so let me wish for a miracle.

Defending. Good old fashion defending without any lapses of concentration. Strength down the spin and at the heart of the back line. Unity. No Ledley today doesn’t mean we have to revert to displays with odd moments of calamity – i.e. losing spatial awareness. We're not kids, we're men. So get a grip and smack down any bullish behaviour from the hosts.

Benny's afro. Just because.

Width. Work the flank. Even if it means Bale swapping sides and having Sandro covering and full backs holding back to protect when he’s rampant in forward positions. Pace will destroy Norwich. Patience and possession the probable fuel to make it happen in pockets of play.

That bloody stupid dance.




Love the shirt.


We've got 99 problems but the pitch ain't one

We're missing a few centre-backs.There's continued debate about whether Defoe should start ahead of van der Vaart. 442 or 4411? Is Rafa (in his head) bigger than Spurs? Is Harry scared to drop him? Why shouldn't we accommodate a match-winner into the side even if he can only last 70 minutes? Does the team have more structure and understanding with a traditional top two up front?

There's more.

A question mark post-Newcastle as to whether we still struggle to sometimes truly lay down authority with a mixture of silk and slaughter and boss and win games we're expected too. Is Adebayor fully fit? Do we miss Lennon? Do we need Lennon? Why does Bassong have some fans choking on their hearts? Can Kaboul command the back four? Harry's left-field selection on the right for Bale - why persist with this failed experiment to provide balance? Or is it an unavoidable consequence of the right-handed quirk we possess what with no natural cover for Aaron?

Questions. All to be answered soon, you would hope. Technically speaking, none of the above should be classed as problematic. Tag them as conundrums and they are all mostly birthed from positive (be it sometimes heated) discussions. We're hardly spending the aftermath of a weekend game dissecting an obituary of a result. These are good days. Not quite hedonistic but there is continued tangible progress (that's in terms of what we expect from 'this' season). Although for some that's another arguable point; The wealth of talent in our squad. Some say a more tactically astute manager would produce more powerful performances. Perhaps we do need Redknapp to be more head strong and consistent. It's not impossible for this team to fail, but failure would be unacceptable no matter how glorious.

We have a beastly spine sprinkled with glam midfield players. Dynamic and demon. But sometimes frustrating and fruitless. What we need is that extra spark to ignite something bullish and brutal. You sense its not that far off. Injuries aside, one or two of our 'stars' are enigmatic, erratic. Still, five games unbeaten. That's good going for a team with plenty of imperfections.

Blackburn is a chicken piece in a bucket.
The fighting cockerel is nothing if it does not fight then crow.

Sandro, Parker in midfield bossing it. Modric, vdV and Bale dictating, leading and marauding. Adebayor flying. Sounds great in writing. With all the problems and conundrums we supposedly have the one place we should not be concerned with them is out on the pitch at Ewood Park. Even if most of the problems are lost in formation.

Let's try it again. Sandro. Parker. Modric. vdV. Bale. Adebayor. Hairs on back of neck should be standing.

Complacency and underachieving? No thank you. Swagger and belief? Yes please. From the players foremost. Don't leave us red faced Spurs. Never red.

I get that the media emphasis is on Blackburn and their manager and that can usually inspire in their favour against the odds. Our centre-back pairing is not our first choice. We might be put under pressure, both physically and aerially. Smash the cliché to pieces. What about the pressure we should be placing them under with ball being pushed around on the pitch, with fluid confidence?

Get the job done Tottenham. These ilk of games are equally as important as any top tier clash.

Cock a doodle doo.


Sexy beast, not so sexy

Newcastle 2 Tottenham 2

It's almost like the footballing Gods read my preview for the game then worked the proceeding ninety or so minutes to play out like a tapestry of mockingness with canned laughter playing at critical moments. In this case both times Newcastle scored. I highlighted (in the preview) that we don't tend to do well up at St James Park. We switch off. It can be calamitous. That wasn't the case on Sunday.

Wasn't so much calamitous. More cataleptic. Yard off the pace for practically the entirety of the first half. The odd moment of progressive movement but mostly on the back foot. In fact no, not on the back foot rather both feet up on the sofa. We didn't get going. Not so much Sexy beast. More sleepy beast.

The intent, well, it can't be constituted as genuine intent if its powder-puff.

The formation, the lacked. Sat thinking we need a goal here. A Newcastle goal. What I got (mockingly bitter-sweet from the Gods) was a penalty for Spurs. Rejoice, yeah? 1-0 at half-time. My head is then full of rhetoric about how 'big teams, they create their own luck, they don't need to play well to win games'.

I then start to think back on the stale first forty-five and wonder why we haven't quite woken up to the concept of perhaps perceiving the game as must-win. But then psychology of this ilk is redundant. You have to be physically losing one nil for the team to wake up. In this case we we're winning one nil by sleeping. Seriously, HELLO? WHAT IS THIS MADNESS?

Before I came to a comforting conclusion, it was 1-1. What now? Pretend like we're losing? Take nothing away from their build up play other than taking it all away. We should have defended far better than that. The word 'casual' popped into my head and I finally had a tag to label that first forty-five with. In that crazy unexplainable fashion that only professional footballers and managers understand we suddenly take shape (pretend like we're losing <-- oh yeah, psychology 101) and poke Newcastle a couple of times in their belly-button, almost flicking out that coloured fluff that lives there. Alas, not quite.

At least the second forty-five had some tempo to it.

What is going on then? Is this Newcastle, a team that's 'okay' nothing special but obviously doing something right and playing well...playing well against us, Spurs...a side that hasn't quite found the pace of the game easy to run alongside too. Or is that harsh? Do we expect too much from our ourselves? Is this simply an off-day? And if an off-day is drawing 2-2 away to an unbeaten that not a good day? Or should the Toon take more credit?

Oh yeah, 2-2. That was the final score. King, we had lost. Walker over-worked. Bale wasn't playing (he wasn't playing right?) and Defoe replaced van der Vaart and promptly scored a belter.


Oh, hindsight, you wonderful thing you, with your frilly knickers and red lipstick. Let's be honest here. We were collectively on a low ebb first half. The intelligent play I expect from Rafa and Ade was all half-arsed and casual (there's that tag again, it's not gone to waste). Perhaps both players were not quite 100%? Although with Rafa I should rephrase; Was Rafa perhaps not 70%?

Possibly being unfair to Newcastle United and their midfield. Might lack obvious quality and depth but they got the job done against us. That's job done enough to stop us from taking it by the scruff of the neck. But then onus on home side. We can't have it all our own way when we play away from the Lane when we expect it.

Also probably unfair on Ade. He looks a class above in terms of movement and possession. I think we might still be two or three games away from actually clicking. We need to cut out the schoolboy thinking when attacking and look for the more measured pass. More often. Happened today a couple of times second half (Parker and Modric). Clickety click soon hopefully.

As for bringing JD on, a player who wanted to prove a point...well that happens all the time. Why didn't he start? Because he wasn't selected. I know, ground-breaking. Would have been lovely to have had Parker and Sandro in the middle also but you just have to deal with it. The formation wasn't great. But nobody would be saying that if Rafa played in Ade and he scored. One match proves nothing. Didn't work on Sunday. Let's just be grateful the substitution did.

What a belter. Then Defoe displayed the more frustrating aspect to his game. Lay the ball off son, lay it off and we'll score again. Selfish strikers, what do they know?

Then another sub breaks our hearts. 2-2, 86 minutes.

Happy with the point when we could have been happy with all the points but then also could have quite easily gone home with nothing more than a souvenir bra from the night out in Newcastle on Saturday.

If this type of performance happens two or three more times, then we can start discussing whether Harry still can't get to grips with having certain players playing in certain positions. I'm sure some of you will point to the right hand side and the fact we have conceded a few via the make-shift flank we have there (get fit Azza).

For now, may as well put this down to a sleepy day at the office and just about getting away with doing as little work as possible without being found out. That cut-throat beastly slap we need to be smacking down on opponents in games is still something we haven't quite worked out. Would have been perfect had we nicked it at 2-1. Had we, this match review would have been a universe apart when in reality, there is very little in comparison. Well, apart from two points.

Onwards. Five games unbeaten. Game in hand. This show IS on the road. Even if we have nine players out injured, and two not fully fit...Shh quiet, hush.

COYS. Love the shirt.



Sexy beast

I'm not sure of the team that will face Newcastle what with talk regarding one or two potential sidelined key players (and Harry hasn't used the Batphone to dial into Sky Sports News as far as I know to share ITK). Ade probably shouldn't be risked. Sandro might be missing. Not at full strength then?

I welcome it.

Ideally would prefer not to be weaker in any department but its going to happen at some point in the season so what better place to see how we cope than against unbeaten Newcastle United. Not just any old away game is it?

We hardly win at St James Park. At times we've hardly turned up. But we've evolved and discovered a gritty backbone to the once upon a time wastelands known as 'away days'. Best part of the 90s were spent accumulating enough points for mid-table mediocrity at the Lane and the odd one or two shock wins (celebrated like Cup games) on our travels. These days we bully and battle and even at times out-class the opposition. Most of us (no longer nervous and dejected) can look ahead at the fixture list and lick our lips with a fanciful 'we'll 'ave 'em for the three points'.

This is still Tottenham which means none of us ignore the caveat attached below all the plaudits and smiles. You know the one. The one that reminds us that we are sometimes guilty of switching off. Individually and as a unit which can then lead to an unequivocal collapse, a calamitous capitulation. The other manner in which smiles can turn to tears is more draining, slow brooding to a similar result but with an agonising story-arc as we give it our all without giving it much. Lots of possession, too much over-play and a deathly lack of cutting edge.

In conclusion we are prone to the odd off day.

Guess what? Everyone is. The fact you could probably name and shame the results in recent seasons of when we've failed to show up is evidence that it doesn't happen that often. We win plenty and it's shown in our league form. Granted we have been out classed on occasions ourselves (still a couple of places we've yet to get a handle on). But expectations are usually met and we are disappointed when they are not because of the target we aim for in these hedonistic days of lofty ambitions.

We are made of sterner stuff. You hear that 1990s? You can stick your flux-capacitor, we ain't coming back.

So what of St James Park? A place of knowing torment accompanied always by a pre-match 'we never win up here' sound bite. There's been the odd (I remember two recent wins) happy moment. But we usually get smashed about. 

So what of St James Park, 2011? Hand on heart? I could not care less for the past. Sick of the caveats. We have a strong squad of players. Our midfield is the Ryan Gosling of the Premier League, beautiful in looks and beastly in body, tinged with elegance and craft. A sexy beast. Okay, so we might be missing a player or two, but so what? I'm not going to grab hold of such obvious excuses. Won't be looking to grab hold of Ryan Gosling either (I appreciate but won't participate) but I am looking to witness this Spurs side grab the game by the scruff then place it in back pocket.

Dominate the midfield with busy Parker leg work, to allow us to play to our strengths, allowing Modric to conduct and look to release Bale in marauding fashion. Be clinical up front when presented with opportunities, meaning clever inter-play between Rafa and the forward rather than hugging the last defender and looking to break the offside.

Robust. Resolute. Ready? We're only good enough if we believe we're good enough and if we don't then it doesn't matter the result on Sunday because we'll stagnate if we don't accept our responsibilities. That being simply to live up to what we know we are capable of. I'm talking generally here rather than just this particular game. The three R's must equote to the one M (momentum).

Time to break Geordie hearts. Might be a false position they're in. Might be punching above their weight. Plucky, lucky. It doesn't matter. They deserve their praise and are hardly lacking in confidence. Although this is not do or die or a must win game it will look good to make it five on the trot and further consolidate our good run of victories and push on up the table.

Professionalism please Tottenham, needed in abundance. Three points would truly make the 2-1 win over the enemy even sweeter. You have got to be able to follow up on key results with ones equally key.

That marker we failed to lay down for top four through out the entirety of last season? Put it to good use. Just aim a little higher though. Always aim higher.

Play with a smile, be it one that bites.


Love the shirt.



And...we're back

Is it safe to come out? International break is over, right?

Thank God.

Other than Bale and Lennon being pulled out of their squads due to 'injury' it's been a decent week having not lost anyone on a more permanent basis with the additional bonus and return of Tom Huddlestone to training. Woodgate is apparently injured again. Conspiracy theorists might tell you otherwise. Although that may simply be desperate optimism rather than kidology. Harry capable of the latter? van der Vaart did say our gaffer is like Jose. Probably meant they're both suave and sharp dressers.

But before the glamour of Madrid we play the role of visitors to bottom club Wigan. The fixture has less sex about it than an orgy hosted by eunuchs. Can we tag this with the must-win label? Goes without say, doesn't it? Back to basics here. Keep it simple, keep it traditional. 442 please. Nobody expected them to win in the game at the Lane, what with memories of the 9-1 still buzzing around our heads. Upsets still do happen and they tend to get dished out to us when we're feeling all apologetic in performance. They're bottom, but they're still fairly organised and plucky and they're fighting for their lives whilst once more (as ever) we have one eye on another game that might well distract.

Even with players rested, if we line-up up with a decent spine and attack and we don't wear t-shirts underneath the Lilywhite, we'll be just dandy. We could have decimated Blackpool a few weeks back and ended up losing 3-1. Wigan won't pose the type of threat we encountered on that particular evening. But anything resembling complacency or lack of focus from our lot will be disheartening and dangerously encouraging for them.

Momentum Spurs. It's easier to win the next game if you've won the one before and the one before that and the one before...etcetc.

Cohesive, clinical, cutting edge. Stand tall please. Show some heart.

It's every game is a cup final time. Hold onto your flat caps.




10 things you'll probably see from Spurs this weekend

1) Wolves to bully us into submission whilst our defenders forget how to stand upright and strong, although questions to be asked post-game why Dawson and co wore roller-skates instead of studded football boots

2) Defoe to be consumed by the offside trap, who complains to head chef that JD is a little over-cooked when he specifically ordered medium rare

3) Hutton, after travelling back from Dubai in economy class, is forced to hitch-hike to Wolverhampton as club require someone to make the half time cups of tea. ITKs everyone are validated

4) Spurs to have 17 shots on goal before hitting the woodwork. Wolves to have 2 shots on goal before taking the lead

5) O'Hara, in the stands, in Wolves hat, scarf and banner singing and hurling abuse to anyone in Lilywhite and squaring up to Joe Jordan on the touchline. Jordan backs off holding in the tears

6) Evil Chirpy forced to play central midfield as Harry overlooks Sandro again. Wilson Palacios removes mask to reveal himself as the original Chirpy with a bloody fight breaking out between the two of them that results in hospitalisation and major facial surgery. With the obsession at fever pitch, original Chirpy under go's an experimental surgical procedure to temporarily graft the new Chirpy's face onto his skull in order to destroy his image and have him removed as official club mascot. Evil Chirpy awakens from his coma and forces the same doctor to give him the appearance of the original Chirpy. The battle continues...

7) Roman to take the ball down from a cross field pass with his thigh, let it roll down to his foot, loop it over defender, chest it then volley it from an impossible angle towards goal only to see it disallowed for offside (JD). Two minutes later, scoffs a shot from a yard out after it hits Defoe on the line and goes out for a goal kick

8) van der Vaart to start, get injured, be unavailable for the Milan game. Message boards to implode over the post-game rhetoric of what is/was more important - Top 4 or the quest for the Champions League quarter final. All agree to blame Harry for his lack of savvy tactical know-how juggling domestic and European selection claiming he can't hack it

9) We lose

10) Everyone looks forward to the Milan game because 'it's more important' only to then witness Ibra scoring three away goals to end the dream whilst Gareth Bale signs a pre-contract for himself and on behalf of Luka Modric with Fergie in the West Stand car park with Berbatov as the getaway driver




10 things I hope to see from Spurs this weekend


1) Not to be out fought
2) Not to be second to every second ball
3) Not to concede the first goal
4) Clinical finishing in front of goal from Roman and Jermain (why you laugh?)
5) If Bale is match fit, he should play a part in the game with Milan and full match fitness in mind
6) Leave Crouch on the bench till latter stages
7) Hutton at right-back ( go on 'arry, bite the bullet), with Gallas back in central defence, thus...
8) Composure across the back four
9) Do not underestimate ikcle fighting for their lives Wolves who have beaten up all the 'big boys' on their home turf
10) Avoidance of 'one of those days' delivered with three vital points to secure top four


Hardly moon on a stick territory.



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.