Harry Redknapp promised last night that his Tottenham Hotspur team would not change their philosophy of attacking football that has made for such thrilling progress in the Champions League when they face Milan in the first leg of their knockout-round tie at San Siro tonight.
They return to the stage of their epic tussle against Milan's neighbours Internazionale in October when Gareth Bale's second-half hat-trick took them within a whisker of a draw in what would have been a remarkable comeback. There will be no Bale in the side tonight, his back injury prevented him from travelling yesterday, but Redknapp said that he would not ask his players to approach the game any differently.
The manager said: "We have not got the players to come here and shut up shop, we are an attacking team and that is how I like it. Whoever I play, [Aaron] Lennon, Rafa [van der Vaart], we are not set up to come here and stick five defensive midfielders across the middle of the park because we haven't got them. Attacking football is what got us here in the first place. We have had a go all through this competition so we will have a right go again at San Siro."
Redknapp said last night that Luka Modric, still recovering from appendicitis, was unlikely to start but he might yet push the Croatian to begin the game in central midfield. With Jermaine Jenas suspended, the Brazilian Sandro, yet to play in the Champions League, will start alongside Wilson Palacios in the middle with Steven Pienaar to get the nod ahead of Niko Kranjcar on the left side.
The Champions League knockout stages might be uncharted territory for Spurs but history tells them that the more courageous sides away from home tend to be rewarded. The first knockout round has been in its current format since the 2003-04 season and since then, of the 66 teams who have scored away from home in the first leg, 47 have progressed to the next round.
Redknapp said: "We can score here. I don't want to concede bags of goals. I can't afford the same mistakes. We can't start like [we did against Inter] but as far as shutting up shop goes it's a non-starter because we don't have the players here. If I had two wide men who could do a job and sit there and just be solid, I might think about it but those two types of players are not at this club.
"I am not overloaded with defensive players and to get the best out of what I have got, I can't ask Lennon to do a defensive job. It is not in his nature, no more than it is in Kranjcar's nature just to sit in and do a defensive job."
Spurs have scored 24 goals in eight games so far. Milan conceded 11 goals in the six group-stage games and are missing key players tonight. Antonio Cassano and Mark van Bommel are both cup-tied. The injury list is significant with Andrea Pirlo, Gianluca Zambrotta, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Rodney Strasser and Massimo Ambrosini all out.
Redknapp said his side's two most recent league wins over Bolton Wanderers and Sunderland showed they could play without Bale and Modric. "We have had to claw some results out, it has not been the free-flowing football we have played before perhaps, but we have had a real go," he said. "We were solid in our away games. Sure we were hanging on at times but that is what we have to do – make sure we stay in this last-16 tie. We have to give ourselves a chance when we take Milan back to White Hart Lane. At home with a full house we can give anybody a go."