AC Milan manager Masimiliano Allegri is nothing if not a confident bloke. Prior to the first leg of his sides’ Champion’s League clash with Tottenham, he sat before the Press, full of bravado and told reporters that Tottenham were the “least tricky of possible opponents”. Furthermore, he claimed that “they always give away something at the back” and that he expected his Milan side to exploit Spur’s leaky defence.
Boy did those words come back to bite him where it hurts. Spurs turned in a sublimely professional performance, which saw them shock the seven-times European Champion’s with a 1-0 victory at the San Siro. Despite Allegri’s expectations, Spurs were impressively tight at the back and AC Milan found themselves prodding and probing for gaps that just wouldn’t open up.
It’s more than a little surprising, therefore, that Allegri has decided to flap his chops once more in Tottenham’s general direction. In a recent interview on Radio Crc, Allegri reiterated his belief that Spurs are “not among the strongest teams in Europe”. Some people don’t learn.
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What I don’t understand is just how comments like this are supposed to aid AC Milan’s cause. Remarks such as this shift the pressure onto Milan and away from Spurs, who will no doubt relish their underdog status. Furthermore, if I was manager at AC Milan, I would not want to start a debate about which clubs were among the strongest in Europe, for fear that my side, for all its experience and ‘pedigree’ would be left off the list.
AC Milan may be sitting pretty, five points clear at the top of Serie A, but are they really as scary a prospect for opposition sides as they were a half-decade ago? Time has taken its toll on this Milan side, who have a reputation for being slow and defensive-minded. Granted, there are a number of old-heads in the Milan squad who know just what it takes to win a Champion’s League, but will this be enough to see off a youthful Spurs side with pace to burn?
Given that Rafael Van der Vaart, Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon are likely to be fit for the encounter, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the older players in the Milan camp are looking at the squad-listings and wondering just how they’ll be able to keep up with these young whippersnappers. The Italian’s will also be missing Andrea Pirlo and Massimo Ambrosini due to injuries and Gennaro Gattuso who is ruled out thanks to a suspension.
It’s difficult not to be optimistic. Spurs have already proven this season that any team, no matter how big, no matter what their pedigree, can be made to suffer at White Hart Lane. Tottenham may not yet be amongst Europe’s top brass, but things are slowly moving in that direction – could tonight represent the start of a new order?
Great odds: Tottenham to win 2-0 – 9/1.
Good odds: Gareth Bale to score first 17/2.
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