Champions League preview: AC Milan vs. Spurs – Team news, opposition insight, stats and more

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan will play their first Champions League knockout stage game since 2014 on Tuesday night as they welcome Spurs for the first leg of the last 16 tie.

It will be the first competitive meeting between the Rossoneri and their London opponents since the 2010-11 campaign in the same competition, but both sides come into the game in patchy form and with injury difficulties to deal with.

Stefano Pioli stressed the important of keeping control over the game in his pre-match press conference, with a familiar opponent coming to town in Antonio Conte, formerly of Juventus and more recently Inter.

Game date: Tuesday, 14 February
Kick-off time: 21:00 (CET)
Venue: San Siro
Referee: Sandro Schärer (VAR: Fritz)

Team news

Milan come into the game having halted their seven-match winless run with a 1-0 victory against Torino on Friday night in what was far from a vintage performance but produces a result that was absolutely necessary.

The main news that came from Thursday’s training session on the eve of the game is that Ismael Bennacer will not be available for the match, with Pioli claiming he is still not 100% and therefore shall not be risked. Fikayo Tomori and Alessandro Florenzi, on the other hand, are back.

According to reports, Pioli should match up with Antonio Conte’s 3-4-2-1 system in what is a very slight variation from the 3-4-3 seen against Torino three days ago, either using the same formation of a 3-4-1-2.

Ciprian Tatarusanu should be in goal as Mike Maignan’s recovery continues, with Pierre Kalulu, Simon Kjaer and Fikayo Tomori tipped to form a three-man defence.

Davide Calabria should come back in for Alexis Saelemaekers at right wing-back with Theo Hernandez on the opposite flank either side of a midfield double pivot consisting of Sandro Tonali and Rade Krunic, given Bennacer’s injury

Then, Brahim Diaz should occupy a role as the playmaker behind Olivier Giroud – who knows Spurs well given his time in the Premier League with their rivals – and Rafael Leao.

Probable Milan XI (3-4-1-2): Tatarusanu; Kalulu, Kjaer, Tomori; Calabria, Tonali, Krunic, Theo Hernandez; Brahim; Giroud, Leao.

The opponents 

It looked for a while as though Conte might not make the trip back to his home country as he only recently had his gallbladder removed, but he was back on the sidelines watching his team get thrashed 4-1 by Spurs on Saturday.

As if that wasn’t a big enough headache, it was confirmed thatRodrigo Bentancur’s season is over with a torn anterior cruciate in his left knee, while Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Yves Bissouma will also be unavailable for the trip to Milan. Hugo Lloris and left-back Ryan Sessegnon will also be missing.

He will stick with the 3-4-2-1 but has no alternatives in the middle of the park, as the only central midfielders he has available are Oliver Skipp and Pape Sarr, both young and barely used so far.

Former Atalanta man Cristian Romero returns though and he is fundamental in defence, while Conte will lean heavily on a forward trio of Harry Kane – who is the focal point – plus Heung-Min Son and ex-Juventus man Dejan Kulusevski.

Saturday’s 4-1 loss against Leicester in the Premier League was a rude awakening a week after the 1-0 home win over Manchester City, the only victory of the season for Conte’s team against one of the other ‘top seven’ teams in the league (including Newcastle).

However, Spurs are hoping for some confidence from their trip to Italy having reached the last 16 of the Champions League after winning their group in their last game in Marseille, having at one point been in line to crash out.

In terms of their league form, Spurs started the season very well with five wins in their first seven games and seven in their opening nine, but since then they have slipped out of the top four having emerged victorious three times in seven games so far in 2023.

Probable Spurs XI (3-4-2-1): Forster; Romero, Dier, Lenglet; Poroo, Skipp, Sarr, Perisic; Kulusevski, Son; Kane.

Head to head

Milan have faced off against Tottenham four times in their history, with the first couple of meetings coming over 50 years ago and the most recent two being 12 years ago.

It was in April 1972 when the Rossoneri met the Lilywhites for the first time in a two-legged UEFA Cup semi-final clash. The result was 2-1 to the hosts at White Hart Lane and then 1-1 in the reverse, meaning Spurs went through on aggregate.

The most recent meetings came in the last 16 of the Champions League in the 2010-11 season. A Peter Crouch winner saw the Premier League side take a 1-0 advantage back to the capital, where a goalless draw again saw Spurs through to the next round by a one-goal margin.

Match facts…

➤ This will be the fifth competitive meeting between Milan and Tottenham Hotspur, with the English side unbeaten across each of the previous four (W2 D2).

➤ Milan and Spurs last faced each other in the 2010-11 campaign, when they were drawn together at this exact stage of the UEFA Champions League. Spurs won 1-0 on aggregate across both games in the Round of 16, with Peter Crouch scoring the only goal of the tie.

➤ Spurs have played at the Giuseppe Meazza on three previous occasions in the UEFA Champions League, with their one victory coming against AC Milan (two defeats v Internazionale). 60% of their goals there have been scored by Gareth Bale (3/5), whose hat-trick in October 2010 versus Inter is one of only two instances of a visiting player scoring a hat-trick at the Giuseppe Meazza (also Rivaldo for Barcelona in 2000).

➤ Spurs manager Antonio Conte has won eight of his last nine games as a manager against AC Milan (L1), between 2013 and 2021. Indeed, he has seen his side win and keep a clean sheet in each of his last three trips to face the Rossoneri away from home (2-0 in 2014, 2-0 in 2019 and 3-0 in 2021 – all in Serie A).

➤ Milan will play their first match in the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League since the 2013-14 season, when they were beaten 1-5 on aggregate by Atlético Madrid in the Round of 16. The Italian side have failed to score in nine of their last 14 matches in the knockout stages of the competition.

➤ Spurs boss Antonio Conte will be looking to win consecutive away games in the UEFA Champions League for just the second time in his managerial career, having last done so back in the 2012-13 campaign while in charge of Juventus (1-0 v Shakhtar Donetsk and 3-0 v Celtic).

➤ Spurs are the team who have scored the highest percentage of their goals in the UEFA Champions League this season from crosses (63% – 5/8), while Antonio Conte’s side are also the team who have scored the most total goals following crosses (5).

➤ Olivier Giroud has been directly involved in six goals for Milan in the UEFA Champions League (four goals and two assists) – the last player with more in a single campaign in the competition for the Rossoneri was Zlatan Ibrahimovic in 2011-12 (9 – five goals and four assists).

➤ Ivan Perisic has made three assists in five appearances for Spurs in the UEFA Champions League this season, already his joint-most for a club among the four teams he has played for in the competition: three in 10 apps for Bayern Munich, one in 20 apps for Internazionale and none in 11 apps for Borussia Dortmund.

➤ The three players who have recovered possession most often in the middle third of the pitch in the UEFA Champions League this season all play for either AC Milan or Spurs: Rodrigo Bentancur (34), Ismaël Bennacer (32) and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg (31).

Ones to watch

As mentioned, Giroud has been among the goals six times for Milan in this competition and his experience against an opponent he knows well from his time at Arsenal and Chelsea will be valuable. Leao will be under the microscope too after a disappointing start to 2023, with Pioli hoping the big occasion and allure of a sold out San Siro sees him spring into life.

Theo Hernandez was better on Friday night and he will have to be at his best, as will Tomori who should marshal a three-man defence against a side he too has played against before. Krunic and Tonali, meanwhile, must have the edge in the midfield against a makeshift pairing.

There is no doubting who the talisman is for Spurs: Kane has 17 goals in the league and one in the Champions League so far. Son has struggled meanwhile domestically (4 goals in 17) but scored twice in the UCL group stages.

A lot of the eyes will be on how Sarr and Skipp cope in midfield given their status as the fourth and fifth-choice when everyone is available, and Dier who had a disastrous outing against Leicester. Perisic had 8 goal involvements in 16 games against Milan during his time with Inter.


With the absentees and the defensive inconsistencies of both sides it feels right to predict a goalfest and that is what a tie like this deserves. Ideally Milan take an advantage to the
Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, but it feels like Spurs have the weapons in attack to cause damage and get a result.

Milan 2-2 Spurs

Tags AC Milan Milan Tottenham

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