Tottenham Hotspur, Bale-less: A nightmare for any Spurs fan, but a sight we may have to get used to should the north London club fail to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
Although that scenario is yet to be decided, Spurs will have to set up without Bale when they face Inter Milan in the Europa League last-16 tie tonight. Tottenham beat the Nerazzurri 3-0 in the first leg at White Hart Lane last week and look to have done enough to progress to the quarter finals. But let us not forget what happened to their opponents’ rivals, AC Milan, when they met what most thought was going to be an off-beat Barcelona on Tuesday night. The battle is not over yet.
It's a shame Bale won’t be playing tonight. This is the ground, and indeed the fixture in which the Welshman announced himself to the world, scoring that incredible hat-trick in the group stage of the Champions League in 2010. Nonetheless his absence will serve as a deterrent for complacency, a feeling Spurs know all too well.
Andre Villas-Boas may choose to start both Jermain Defoe and the returning Emmanuel Adebayor up front for the first time since the trip to QPR on 12 January. Without Bale, the little and large duo can provide Spurs with some added firepower having won 11 of the 16 games they have started together.
Should this be the case I am expecting a bank of four in midfield. Moussa Dembele and Scott Parker will take their usual positions in the centre with Gylfi Sigurdsson and Lewis Holtby operating from the flanks.
AVB may not rush Aaron Lennon back quite so soon. The winger missed his first Premier League game of the season on Sunday against Liverpool and it was clear Spurs missed Lennon. The team lacked the drive and urgency you get with the speedster who sat out with a hamstring injury. To lose him and Bale tonight will be to lose our width and certainly our speed.
Though if Lennon does start I expect Holtby to be named on the bench, but given the circumstances I’d like to see Spurs play in new dimensions. Jake Livermore played well when anchored alongside Parker in midfield on Sunday. The two work horses bossed and bullied Liverpool until AVB failed to counter the introduction of Joe Allen. With Bale out, Dembele can be given a more advanced role in the kind of position we saw him play so elegantly in at Fulham.
Tonight is an opportunity to really see how much Spurs rely on Gareth Bale and how a potential starting XI could line up next season.
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