- Posted by Geoff Reid
- On February 15, 2011
- 1 Comments
- Geoff Reid, UCL 2010/11
By Geoff Reid
The world’s best club competition returns today with two very tasty first leg match-ups, and this is where it really starts to get exciting seeing the big boys go against each other. Today, we see AC Milan hosting Tottenham, and Raul making his return to Spain with Schalke taking on Valencia.
AC Milan vs Tottenham from the San Siro, Milan
The more attractive tie of the round, most of the hype is surrounding whether Tottenham’s Welsh wizard Gareth Bale will be healthy to play any part in the match, although it’s now confirmed that he did not travel with the squad, and stayed in London. In any event, Milan manager Massimiliano Allegri is weary that his club has been knocked out in this round by English sides the last two seasons. But make no mistake, this Milan team is better then the one from the past two seasons by installing new blood, younger, and hungrier players, and a fresh approach from Allegri. They’re also on a role having won six of the last 10 matches, and being unbeaten during that span.
With Spurs, it’s clear manager Harry Redknapp will put out an attacking side to win the game. Redknapp of course refers to the 4-3 defeat to Milan’s cross town rivals Inter in the group stage as beliving his side can scare anyone, but the problem is not conceding at the other end. Spurs have often at times struggled to juggle their own fixture list this season between the domestic league and Champions League being the first time they’ve taken on Europe’s elite since the early 1960’s.
Both sides have injuries for this tie with the hosts having their top midfield players out injured, with captain Massimo Ambrosini, playmaker Andrea Pirlo, and former Tottenham player Kevin-Price Boating all ruled out. Central defender Thiago Silva may be pushed to midfield and having Mario Yepes replacing him in the heart of the defense with Alessandro Nesta. For Spurs, besides missing Bale, Peter Crouch, and Dutchman Rafael van der Vaart missed Saturday’s victory at Sunderland to be fit for this one. It’s likely too soon for Luka Modric to start after having his appendix operation, with Younes Kaboul, Ledley King, and Tom Huddlestone all joining Bale in staying home. Jermaine Jenas is also suspended for the match.
Prediction: AC Milan 3-2 Tottenham
Valencia vs Schalke from the Mestalla, Valencia
This tie may not get the same attention and headlines as the other one taking place today, but make no mistake, it has potential to be a very attractive match-up. Valencia manager Unai Emery believes this is a dead even contest here, and the winner could make a deep run. The fact that there will be three former Real Madrid players playing for Schalke which will make things all the more interesting.
Schalke manager Felix Magath compares Valencia to Lyon but are stronger in the attacking end. The objective is to get an away goal to set them up nicely for the return leg in Gelsenkirchen. Commenting on his clubs slow start to this season, Magath states that was because the new signings having never played in the German Bundesliga before needed time to get used to their new surroundings, but the Champions League was never a problem. The team will look to get behind Spanish legend Raul on his return to his country, along with the two other former Real Madrid players Klass-Jan Huntelaar, and Christoph Metzelder.
Valencia doesn’t have too many troubles with injuries with Vicente Rodriguez being an unused substitute over the weekend against Atletico Madrid, while David Albelda is still nursing an injury and is also suspended. Goalkeeper Cesar Sanchez is questionable. For Schalke, Kyriakos Papadopoulos did not make the trip with a pulled muscle during training, and Christoph Moritz missing the tie due to a knee problem.
Prediciton: Valencia 2-2 Schalke