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Spurs – AC Milan Preview: Could This Be The Inaugural St Wenger’s Day?

Well if this doesn’t get your juices flowing I suggest you go and boil your head. Tottenham Hotspur vs AC Milan. It’s the sort of fixture that makes me want to don nothing more than a loin-cloth and go wrestle a bear, then save a small child – and svelte, scantily-clad brunette – from a burning building, before reducing Colonel Gadaffi to tears with a devastating best-of-five demolition in Scissors-Paper-Stone. Precisely that sort of fixture.Various Spurs fans – both of the flesh-and-blood variety and those tiny little men who live inside my computer box – wailed and gnashed their teeth when we drew this lot. By contrast, at AANP Towers the walls resounded with cheers and the fattened calf quite rightly wore a look of doom, for win, lose or – well, just win or lose really – Spurs vs Milan is the sort of glamour tie that makes the bad old days of Gross, Francis et al seem worthwhile, the sort of glamour tie that puts us back on the map of Europe’s elite. Moreover, from the moment the tie was drawn I fancied us to beat them at the Lane. I hold up my hands, clear my throat and give a sprightly, if tuneless, rendition of Mea Culpa in admission of the fact that I certainly did not anticipate the win at the San Siro, oh me of little faith. At home however, with the Lane absolutely heaving, we can beat anybody, the bigger the better.

That said, the last time we were in this sort of situation, protecting a lead in a crucial two-legged European tie, Sevilla were two goals up before the chap next to me had even found his seat, so complacency will be way down the list tonight.

The Champions League Does Funny Things To A Man

Last time, ahead of the trip to the San Siro, I was bemoaning the absence of Jermaine Jenas of all people. And today I petition my manager to allow alcohol consumption within the office, in order that I may raise a glass to the return to fitness of Corluka. I rather like the fact that Alan Hutton is essentially a winger trying to escape the shackles of the back-four, but we can darned well do without his weekly penalty-area yanking of an opponent’s shirt tonight. He may wobble rather than run, but Corluka has more of a defensive head on his shoulders, and given that we’ve conceded six goals in two games against Wolves and Blackburn, I would opt for him against AC Milan. Plus, I can’t get enough of those weighted diagonals he plays to Lennon. Weighted diagonals, I miss thee.

Other Team News 

VDV and Modders will get the chance to play their own little private game of Awesomeness in the centre, while Sandro gets the AANP vote for the final midfield spot, on the basis that he more closely resembles Wilson Palacios Circa Early 2009 than Wilson Palacios currently does.

Defoe’s goals have presumably given ‘Arry food for thought, but Crouch-VDV is his preferred European axis, and with good reason given the bewilderment instilled in foreign sorts by the gangly one.

Mind you, this will all be fairly academic if Gomes and the back-four indulge in any more of those spontaneous acts of lunacy. At the moment the entire back-line is typified by BAE, who on nights like this can either produce a masterclass in full-backery, or resemble a demented, risk-happy loon with not a care in the world for the cleanliness of the Goals Against column. Please, please, please chaps – no madness at the back tonight.

Happy St Wenger’s Day

Strictly – or rather chronologically –  speaking, we have already progressed further in the Champions League this season than that ‘orrible lot down the road, so happy St Wenger’s Day everybody. However, for all the gentle ribbing in the office this bright and breezy morn, it does not really count. Yet. Avoid defeat tonight though, and my goon-supporting chums won’t be able to avoid another attack of their silent foe, Ye Grin of Smugness.

Seven hours to go and I can barely contain myself, it really is that terrifically exciting. Fingers crossed one and all for the latest, Greatest Night.

AC Milan 0-1 Spurs: Good Grief. Who Saw That Coming?

Come now, really – did anyone in their wildest dreams expect that? Really? That was not just a victory away to AC Milan, it was an absolute ruddy masterclass in the much-vaunted but rarely achieved art of Navigating Fiendishly Difficult Away Legs in the Champions League. Novices? Fie upon the very suggestion. Our lot look like they were born to play in this competition.First whistle to last our heroes stuck to the drill with a discipline that had me reaching for the whisky in disbelief. Like some super-computer sucking up knowledge at a rate of knots, ‘Arry demonstrated that the lessons of San Siro visits past have been learned, the days of “Just f*ckin’ run about” a distant memory as he adopted the most unlikely role, for one night at least, of tactical genius. Accordingly, our heroes carefully put to one side the gung-ho all-action approach they have spent the past couple of years perfecting, and instead donned monocles and mortar boards for a display of quite astounding maturity and bloody-mindedness. Witness Woodgate, not a cobweb in sight, clearing from a prone position on the floor in the final seconds; Modders orchestrating keep-ball in the dying stages; Corluka bearing a blood-stained ice-pack around his mangled foot; all of which left the Milanese stomping around with angrier and angrier scowls, like over-sized nursery kids, until one felt they might tear off their own limbs and beat each other with them, which admittedly very few nursery kids do these days.

Roll of Honour

Ah the good folk of Tottenham Hotspur FC. Heroes the ruddy lot of them. Sandro and Sergeant Wilson charged around to the strains of 90s one-hit techno wonder Kicks Like A Mule, stomping up to Milanese attacking types and positively screeching into their faces “Your name’s not down, you’re not coming in!” Not only did those two patrol the centre like Robocop and his less frivolous twin brother, but they also showed quite remarkable discipline in restraining themselves from diving in at any point, and avoiding the concession of too many unnecessary fouls.

For his next trick Gomes will presumably travel through time and reappear two days ago, but at the San Siro he settled simply for defying the laws of physics, those two second half saves worthy of Banks and tantamount to goals.

VDV’s every touch was a thing of beauty, the very antithesis of the Neanderthalic buffoon in the opposite ranks, for whom the ball was but a secondary detail. Too easy it is to forget VDV’s disguised chip that floated an inch wide while just about everyone in the stadium and the watching world was looking towards the far post area into which most mortals would have aimed a cross.

Lennon’s destruction of the left-back was almost inhumane (although not in a Matthieu Flamini sort of way), while out on the left the remarkably similar-looking BAE and Pienaar beavered back and forth indefatigably.

The back-four barely put a foot wrong, Daws looking every inch an international, and when all-out assault forced the reshuffle Woodgate slotted in with minimal fuss, and the drill was resumed. The other substitutes did precisely what every good wholesome substitute ought to do, Modric lovingly stroking the thing around for the final ten minutes and Kranjcar poking little triangles, as the enraged Italians looked for something, anything, to kick.

The Goal 

And the finish. Good grief for one horrible moment it looked like Crouch’s legs had assumed minds of their own and were about to sabotage the blighter’s moment, but he avoided tripping over himself in an unholy tangle of limbs – just – and the day was ours.

(Epilogue)

And then it got better. Lest any further evidence be needed that his shaggy mane hides only a great big vacuum between his ears, Gattuso then ignored the likes of resident lightweights such as Pav, Modders and Gomes, and made a beeline for one J. Jordan Esquire. “Nobody wants to see that,” droned Stelling on Sky Sports, rather missing a trick, for Jordan vs Gattuso would be one of the fastest-selling pay-per-view events in television history, even if it would only be a matter of seconds before Jordan tore the little man apart with his bare hands and then chewed on him with what teeth he has left.

(Second Epilogue)

And then it got better still, when all-round good egg and renowned gentleman of the game, Graeme Souness, was swamped within his own bile during the post-match natter and spat out a description of Gattuso as “just a little dog”. Ooh, you could almost reach and touch the hatred.

O

ne or two colleagues have pointed out that the tie is far from over and other such guff, only to be confronted by that most wonderful riposte, The Grin of Delight. Frankly, right now, I don’t care what happens tomorrow, next week or any time hence. After the turgid dross and embarrassment of the 90s and 00s, the last 18 months have provided enough lilywhite glory nights to last me a lifetime. AC Milan 0 – 1 Spurs. Ding dong.

AC Milan – Spurs Preview: A Night of Defence, In Its Best Form

It’s the bare bones, if ‘Arry is to be believed, a dry carcass with not a scrap of meat adorning it.Such heady nights as these do juggle with the emotions somewhat, for what other explanation can there be for going into a game against AC ruddy Milan half wishing that Jenas were available? Not only that, but I also rather pine for the gangly one tonight, for the evidence of the eyes, as well as his quite remarkable international and European goalscoring records, suggests that these foreign sorts simply know not how to handle his uncontrollable, elongated limbs when they start a-flapping.

Crouch may yet feature, but Jenas is most certainly suspended, which means, alas, ‘tis likely to be Sergeant Wilson and Sandro across the centre today (unless our glorious leader gambles that Luka can survive without the fresh stitches across his appendix-less gut splitting open amidst the hubbub).

Given the absence of such creative genii as Modders and Hudd we ought all solemnly to prostrate ourselves and thank the gods of injuries and suspensions respectively that at least VDV is available to pull strings, dictate play and miss penalties. Kranjcar may well get the nod on the left, while the Lennon-Corluka axis could be reunited on the right, with Pienaar and Pav awaiting, primed for action – and by golly, it starts to look like we have a chance and a half tonight.

‘Arry has made it quite clear that he considers attack the best form of defence, and while there is an element of dread at the prospect of some of our lot taking this philosophy far too literally and engaging in that familiar Four-Goals-Down-At-Half-Time routine, it is to be hoped that, faced with Pato, Robinho and Ibrahimovic, our rearguard mob adopt some slender modicum of defensive organisation while everyone else bombs forward. Gallas’ rather evil eyes have seen and done it all before at this level, so he will need to decide well before kick-off which luridly coloured clogs he wants and then use them to defend our honour like a man possessed. This is also a night for Daws to puff out his chest, Gomes to eradicate the clangers and, up the other end, for Defoe to damn well bury the slightest, mildest whiff of a half-chance.

Naughty 

Attack, Attack, Attack 

Sendings-off, or missed penalties, or two/three/four-goal deficits – our European cousins have yet to stumble upon a fool-proof means of convincing us that we are beaten. This 2011 Tottenham vintage is capable of all manner of fizz and bang, and if that means going to the San Siro and slugging it out in another madcap, all action goal-fest, by heck our lot will be up to the challenge.

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