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Spurs sweat on Van der Vaart as midfield crisis looms

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LONDON (Reuters) -- Tottenham Hotspur travelled to Italy on Monday with something of a midfield crisis and desperately hoping Rafael van der Vaart would be fit for Tuesday's Champions League game with AC Milan.

Gareth Bale, who scored a hat-trick last time Spurs were in the city, when they lost 4-3 to Inter in the group phase, misses the last-16, first-leg match with a back injury, while Jermaine Jenas is suspended.

Luka Modric is struggling to make the starting side as he recovers from an operation to remove his appendix less than two weeks ago, piling the pressure on Van der Vaart to overcome a calf strain that kept him out of Saturday's 2-1 Premmier League win at Sunderland.

"I have got to see how Rafa is," manager Harry Redknapp said of the Dutchman, who has been in superb form this season.

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The return to the first team of Nicko Kranjcar, who has scored the winning goals in Spurs' last two games, also gives Redknapp an attacking midfield option.

"Niko deserves his place in the team," Redknapp said after the Croat's second successive sweetly-struck winner.

"He's a top player. He practises, he spends time after training every day. Every day, he is on the training ground after he finishes doing a half-hour's practice."