Tottenham travel to Milan for the second-leg of the Europa League last-16 tie against Inter without Gareth Bale, but with a healthy cushion of a 3-0 advantage.
It was a dominating performance by Spurs at White Hart Lane last week, with the home side in control from the off, helped by Bale’s early goal. The one negative on the night was a booking the Welsh star picked up for diving that now sees him have to sit out the return match.
In retrospect, manager Andre Villas-Boas is unlikely to be too downcast about the suspension. With Spurs’ progress surely all but assured, Bale will now not being walking a tightrope heading into a probable quarterfinal.
Despite missing Bale’s scoring threat, Villas-Boas, who returns to the club where he worked as a coach under Jose Mourinho, is in no mood to simply sit back on Tottenham’s advantage in the San Siro.
"It would be negative from us to set up defensively,” he said, according to Tottenham’s official website. “We need to try to score a very important away goal. We’ve done that a lot of times since the start of the season and if we do it again, it puts us in a comfortable position."
Villas-Boas is again set to utilize Brad Friedel in the Europa League in place of Hugo Lloris, while William Gallas could also come in, having been selected regularly in the competition, over Michael Dawson. It remains to be seen if the Portuguese coach will look to further rotate his side, with Mousa Dembele and Jan Vertonghen potentially being given a rest. Emmanuel Adebyaor could be fit to return from an ankle problem, though is likely to start on the bench.
Inter’s poor form continued on Sunday as they suffered a 1-0 defeat to Bologna. The Nerazzurri now find themselves in fifth place in Serie A and four points off the goal of a Champions League place. Pressure is mounting on young coach Andrea Stramaccioni and he admits that the side is struggling.
"Things aren't coming off for us at the moment and we're not playing well, there's no point denying it,” he revealed, according to Inter’s official website. “It's up to me, as the coach, to find the right way to restore confidence to my players because they seem to have lost that.”
Inter would need something remarkable to continue their progress in this season’s Europa League, especially with an injury crisis that has played a big part in their recent slump. The loss of Diego Milito as a focal point in attack was all too apparent in the first leg. With goals needed, Rodrigo Palacio could well start up front in the San Siro supported by Antonio Cassano. Fredy Guarin should also start after coming off the bench in the first leg.
Stramaccioni has already revealed that Alvaro Pereira, Dejan Stankovic, Ezequiel Schelotto and Marco Benassi will not be involved.
D: Jonathan, Ranocchia, Jesus, Zanetti
M: Gargano, Cambiasso
Guarin, Cassano, Alvarez
D: Walker, Caulker, Gallas, Assou-Ekotto
M: Parker, Livermore
Lennon, Holtby, Sigurdsson
Prediction: The difference between the two sides at White Hart Lane was stark, although Inter could well have snatched at least one away goal, with some sloppy Tottenham defending gifting them two clear chances. There was more laxness at the back for Spurs that turned a victory into a defeat against Liverpool on Sunday and it could be that some mental fatigue is beginning to creep in.
With that in mind, and given their comfortable position in the tie, it would not be a surprise if Villas-Boas were to refresh his side. Even if changes are made, it is difficult to envisage a struggling Inter, shorn of so many players, including the crucial Milito and Walter Samuel, coming close to overturning the deficit.
Inter 1-1 Tottenham
Where to watch: The second leg of the Europa League last-16 clash will kick-off from the San Siro at 2 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by the Fox Soccer Channel, with a live stream available on Fox Soccer 2Go.