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Mar, 9, 2011

Allegri bullish ahead of Spurs tie

Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri has played down the task ahead of his side on Wednesday night, claiming it "wouldn't be a historic achievement" if they overturn a 1-0 first-leg deficit to defeat Tottenham.

• Spurs v AC Milan preview
• Capello: Bale's the best
• Flamini: I'm not a dirty player
• Van der Vaart ready to go direct
• Redknapp wants to attack Milan
• Forum: Will Spurs qualify?

Spurs approach the game in the ascendancy thanks to Peter Crouch's goal at the San Siro, and have won all four of their European games in North London this season. Indeed, only once in the history of the Champions League has a side lost at home in the first leg and still qualified: Ajax defeated Panathinaikos 3-1 on aggregate to reach the final in the 1995-96 season.

Despite the difficult position his side find themselves in, and the weight of history being firmly against them, Allegri appears confident Milan can reach the quarter-finals at Tottenham's expense.

"We can qualify, because we're a strong team and because in the first leg we lost a strange game," Allegri said. "We know that we'll face a great team of 25 fine players who are doing very well in the Premiership and who have proved to be competitive in the Champions League as well.

"It wouldn't be a historic achievement though. We're talking about coming back from a 1-0 deficit from the first leg, a result which flattered Tottenham."

On the eve of the Champions League tie, former Milan coach Fabio Capello described Gareth Bale as the best player in the world and the Welshman is likely to be on the bench having made his comeback from a six-week injury against Wolves at the weekend.

While Bale scored a hat-trick away at Inter and destroyed Maicon at home as Spurs secured a victory, Allegri says Milan are not solely focusing on the potential threat of the 21-year-old.

"We know that Bale is an excellent player with great physical and technical qualities," Allegri said. "He has developed a lot this year, but I think Bale isn't Tottenham's only weapon. The English side has plenty of skilled players, especially in midfield and attack."

Milan will look to striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic for inspiration as the Swede has already scored 14 goals and claimed 11 assists in Serie A this season. Though he has a reputation for failing to impress against English sides, he did score twice against Arsenal for Barcelona last season and Allegri expects Ibrahimovic to enjoy another productive night in North London.

"This season, Ibrahimovic has been decisive in the Champions League, but in any case, you can't judge a players by one or two performances," he said. "Ibra is a winner who's having the best season of his career and I'm sure he'll have a great game."

While Milan are blessed with talent in attack, they are deprived of options in midfield as Gennaro Gattuso is suspended, Mark van Bommel cup-tied and Massimo Ambrosini and Andrea Pirlo missing due to injury.

Former Spurs midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng is also a doubt due to a knee injury sustained in the weekend's Serie A win over Juventus, but Allegri says the Ghana international has looked good in training and may well start.

"He'll be re-evaluated tomorrow morning [Monday], but there's a good chance that he'll be in the starting line-up. I'll still have to do decide whether to play him in the three-man midfield or right behind the strikers."

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