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Stramaccioni's squad hit by injuries

7 March 2013-PA Sport

Defensive concerns ... Inter Milan coach Andrea Stramaccioni (Getty)

Inter Milan's plans to stop Gareth Bale tearing it apart once again have been hit by an injury crisis, manager Andrea Stramaccioni conceded.

Bale scored a stunning hat-trick in the San Siro in October 2010 and he then put on a thrilling display in the opposing fixture the following month as Tottenham Hotspur beat the Italian giant 3-1 at White Hart Lane.

Despite the pressure on his shoulders, Bale has become an even better player since those two nights, scoring 20 goals for the club this season alone.

Inter had hoped to mark the 23-year-old out of the game when they face Spurs in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday night (Friday AEDT), but it will definitely be without defenders Matías Silvestre and Yuto Nagatomo, while serious doubts remain over the fitness of international centre-backs Andrea Ranocchia and Walter Samuel.

Stramaccioni, who could also be without midfielder Fredy Guarin owing to injury, has had to call six youth players up to his squad for the clash at White Hart Lane, reducing the Nerazzurri's chances of victory.

"My team should be aware of Bale's strengths, but obviously, the problem now is I don't have too many players available," Stramaccioni said.

"This is a very important game for us, but unfortunately we have lots of injuries.

"We gave a few of them tests this morning, but most of them are still struggling and we don't want to risk anyone.

"The Europa League is important, but we don't want anyone to get longer-term injuries. Our main target is third place in our league.

"That's why we brought six young players here. It's going to be difficult."

Bale's performances have meant critics have started comparing him to Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.

The 23-year-old has scored nine goals in his last seven games for Spurs, helping Andre Villas-Boas' men climb to third in the Barclays Premier League.

Stramaccioni is aware of Bale's talents having tracked the former Southampton man closely since it was confirmed that his team would face Tottenham in the last 16.

"Bale is one of most complete players in Europe at the moment," the 37-year-old said.

"He's proving he's becoming very decisive. He scores a lot and that is what distinguishes a good player from a great player.

"We have great players as well, but that doesn't take away the fact that we respect Bale, and all the great players they have like Aaron Lennon and Jermain Defoe too."

Despite their injuries, Inter arrived in London full of confidence having come from 2-0 down at the weekend to beat Catania and move up to fourth in Serie A.

A row between Antonio Cassano and Stramaccioni has threatened to overshadow the team's trip to the English capital, however.

Stramaccioni, who replaced Claudio Ranieri as manager in March, dropped Cassano from the game in Catania after he fell out with the Italy striker, but the two appear to have patched up their differences, however.

"Antonio is here with us," Stramaccioni said.

"He trained regularly this morning. I don't know if he will be in the team, but I'm sure he's going to be important one way or another tomorrow for us. I don't have any issues with him."

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