Club Focus – Tottenham Hotspur – Resilient Spurs look toward Milan clash

Another Niko Kranjcar stunner gave Tottenham Hotspur the win against Sunderland, ensuring Spurs have only lost two league games since November 6th and moving them into fourth place in the Premier League, at least until tonight. The squad now prepare for a trip to the San Siro to play Milan in the first knockout round of the Champions League, a stadium which they have already played at this year, almost coming away with a dramatic point against European champions Inter.

Tottenham will be hoping to take to Italy what they have shown in recent matches. Performances have lacked the traditional Spurs flair and technique but instead supporters have seen character and grit. Indeed, this was expressed after the Sunderland game by Michael Dawson who said: “We showed character to come back. We recovered well.” Away at Blackburn Rovers they were a side determined not to fall into a slump after disappointing results to Fulham and Newcastle United and a solitary early goal from Peter Crouch gave them a valuable three points. Then Kranjcar’s sensational strike at the death against Bolton Wanderers brought another win and the Croatian did it again on Saturday despite, on both occasions, Spurs not performing to their best.

It is this spirit and determination that will help them against the current Serie A leaders on Tuesday. Milan have made the San Siro their fortress and put four past Parma there on Saturday. Additionally, two of those goals were scored by Robinho, who Milan can afford to leave on the bench while Zlatan Ibrahimovic continues to provide and score. Their threat must be nullified by Spurs skipper Michael Dawson. Dawson was mobbed by his team mates as he rose above Titus Bramble to head Spurs’ equaliser just before half-time and his influence and inspiration enabled Tottenham to come out a better side in the second half. With William Gallas at times looking shaky, Dawson showed just why Tottenham fans are seemingly upbeat about their chances in Europe this year. Tottenham’s defensive record this year has been close to shambolic but since Dawson’s return to the side they have looked more confident and comfortable at the back and the celebrations after his goal indicated what sort of presence he commands in the dressing room. With Luka Modric and Gareth Bale likely to be absent, a committed performance from Dawson similar to the one given at the Stadium of Light is urgently needed in Milan to take hopes of progression into the second leg.

There is the fear that the grinding out of recent results is overshadowing what have not been convincing performances by Spurs recently. Against Newcastle and Bolton they needed stoppage time goals to gain points and against Bolton and Sunderland it took goals from Kranjcar out of nothing to seal wins and several Sunderland frailties at the back led to Tottenham’s first. Nevertheless, despite the dynamic quality of football Tottenham supporters have been treated to this year, another show of grit from a depleted side could be sufficient for Spurs fans who anticipate another exciting European night.

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