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Much is made of Gareth Bale's hat-trick in a losing effort against Inter Milan in 2010. But Tottenham's best night in the San Siro came a few months later when they beat AC Milan 1-0, without the Welshman's services.
Bale's suspension for Thursday's game against Inter means Spurs must do without him again. Villas-Boas has a few options as to how he might set up his midfield and attack. If it is fairly safe to assume he will play one upfront—probably Jermain Defoe—it is not so clear who he will go with in midfield.
So long as he is deemed fit enough not to risk a recurrence of his injury, Aaron Lennon has to play. Even with a 3-0 lead, the last thing Spurs want to do is get pegged back at the San Siro. Without Bale, the team needs someone with a genuine semblance of pace, not only to ensure Defoe is not isolated, but also to give the defense a breather in such situations. Lennon will make the most of the spacious San Siro pitch in this regard.
Mousa Dembele and Scott Parker will likely, and should be, the central midfield pairing. It is imperative Tottenham do not let Inter get too much of a foothold in the game (especially if they are unable to extent their lead). This combative duo can be relied upon to give a good of stopping the Nerazzurri here.
It leaves two positions in midfield, one out left and one slightly advanced. This match is probably too soon for Clint Dempsey, so it is likely Gylfi Sigurdsson and Lewis Holtby will be the two here.
Had Bale been available it would probably have to have been Sigurdsson who made way. Just like how Harry Redknapp brought in Steven Pienaar for Niko Kranjcar out left in February 2011, Holtby is a more tenacious performer than Sigurdsson. Though it would be inadvisable for Spurs to sit back, it is important to have someone ready to pitch in defensively. Like Pienaar was, Holtby is grittier and more suitable for grafting in such a situation.
As it is, Sigurdsson's recent good performances mean he deserves a chance to play on a big occasion like this. Deployed in attacking midfield, he will be capable of dropping back when needed to, but he also has the eye for a pass that might set Defoe free.