Champions League action returns tonight with AC Milan set to take on Tottenham Hotspur in the first-leg of the Round of 16 clash at San Siro
The biggest club football competition is upon us again with a very promising clash on the cards between Spurs and Milan. Neither team is coming into this game in the best of form and that promises us a very even clash on paper. Tottenham are proving to be frustratingly inconsistent with a win against Manchester City being followed up by a thrashing in the hands of Leicester City.
AC Milan meanwhile returned to winning ways after a very poor run of games last weekend and will be hoping to build on that. The defending Italian champions have fallen off considerably since the beginning of 2023. Stefano Pioli will know that his team will have to give everything in the Champions League as a domestic title seems extremely unlikely.
The Rossoneri will know much the win against Torino means to them after a baffling seven game winless run during which they lost twice to local rivals Inter Milan – once in the league and once in the cup. If they were turning over a new leaf, it could not have come at a better time for the Italian giants and they have the firepower to get the better of Spurs on the given day.
It’s been a while since AC Milan have been in the knock-out rounds of the Champions League though. The seven-time Champions haven’t been seen here since the 2013-14 season. Understandably, there will be nerves when it comes to the Italian club and Tottenham will be hoping to exploit this.
Tottenham have improved considerably in the mental aspect under Conte but even the Italian manager admitted that his team crumbles under pressure. In such a high-octane atmosphere, there is a chance that the London club do not know how to handle the occasion and this means it’s an advantage to AC Milan.
WHEN & WHERE?
Date: Wednesday, 15th February 2023.
Time: 20:00 HRS GMT.
Venue: San Siro, Milan.
Tottenham have a number of injuries to deal with ahead of this momentous clash. Club captain Hugo Lloris is out for a considerable period of time with an injury and Fraser Forster is expected to take his place. The backup goalie will be hoping to put in a better performance than what he put in during the weekend against Leicester City.
Lucas Moura continues being a long-time absentee for the club. It’s in the midfield department though that Tottenham are set to be unbelievably under-staffed. Rodrigo Bentancur picked up an ACL injury against the Foxes and is set to be out for the rest of the season. Yves Bissouma has also been absent and will continue to be out for some more time.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg is suspended for this particular clash and he will not be available for selection. This means that Conte will likely have to deploy a young midfield pairing of Pape Matar-Sarr and Oliver Skipp as his midfield duo for such a big game although Eric Dier is an option to play in this role. Alfie Devine is yet another option who can play here.
AC Milan will miss the services of first-choice goalie Mike Maignan who has been out of action for months now. Whilst there is hope that the Frenchman will return for the second-leg, tonight’s clash will come a little too soon for the shot-stopper. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has just returned from injury, though is unlikely to feature against Tottenham.
Former Chelsea defender Fikayo Tomori has recovered in time for tonight’s clash but Stefano Pioli has confirmed that he is not so lucky with Ismael Bennacer with the Algerian set to remain on the sidelines.
The record Tottenham goalscorer has been having a great season in front of goal and just like always, the English superstar has to be Tottenham’s most important player on the night. How Spurs fare against AC Milan could be directly related to how Kane performs and Conte will be hoping that their stand-in captain can step up.
It will not be easy for Kane against Milan’s impressive back-line. It is never easy as an attacker against an Italian defensive line but if anyone can have a good game, it has to be the Tottenham star. A goalscoring performance could be on the cards for Kane after a rather silent outing in the weekend against Leicester.
AC Milan predicted XI vs Tottenham Hotspur: Tatarusanu; Kalulu, Kjaer, Tomori; Calabria, Krunic, Tonali, Hernandez; Diaz, Leao; Giroud
Tottenham Hotspur predicted XI vs AC Milan: Forster; Romero, Dier, Davies; Emerson, Sarr, Skipp, Perisic; Kulusevski, Son; Kane