Spurs boss: Europa League ‘deserves respect’ and we’re grateful for the extra games

Andre Villas-Boas feels the Europa League is “a competition that deserves respect” – and he is determined to win it for the second time in three years as Tottenham begin their continental campaign tomorrow.

Villas-Boas won the trophy with FC Porto in 2011 before moving to England to begin his ill-fated spell at Chelsea.

Now at Spurs, the Portuguese head coach is preparing to host Lazio in Group J on Thursday night - and he is intent on bringing European glory to White Hart Lane.

“One thing is very important, we want to win the Europa League and we want to focus on that competition,” said Villas-Boas.

“I think it’s a competition that deserves respect. It’s a wonderful trophy to win, and it makes you play the European Super Cup against the Champions League winners.

“I think it’s a very tough competition because there are a lot of clubs involved, a lot of rounds, and there are teams that drop from the Champions League - they eventually come back to you to further increase the level of competition, so going from the group phase to winning the final is very difficult.

“I can’t comment on the way that other clubs position themselves towards this competition. I would just like to embrace it as I would embrace the Champions League - with a definite, clear objective of going out to win it.

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“It’s a difficult group with Lazio, Panathinaikos and Maribor. Lazio started the season so well in Italy, and there’s been a change of coach for them too with a very solid team.

“Panathinaikos have been threatening to win the league [in Greece] and they have a very good coach [Manuel Jesualdo Ferreira] who has been very successful in Portugal. Maribor is the best team in Slovenia so they can also create some problems.

“It’s a tough group but we want to dream about the possibility of winning that competition, so we want to make sure that we go through the group phase with the wins that we need, and then we’ll see what happens after that.”

Villas-Boas’ desire to win the Europa League contrasts sharply with his predecessor’s views on the competition.

Harry Redknapp described the punishing schedule as “a nightmare”, stating: “Thursday and Sunday every week – you’ve got no chance in the Premier League with that, it kills you off.”

However, Villas-Boas is welcoming the extra midweek games as he seeks to mould his new-look squad and knit his team together.

“At this moment we are grateful that we get the Europa League games in the mix, because that gives us more playing time on the pitch,” he said. “The players get to know each other a lot more and we can rotate the squad a bit more - that is extremely important.

“We haven’t had a lot of time to work with the team. At this time it’s important for us to have more time together, to establish ourselves, and this is why we welcome the schedule getting a little bit tighter and having more games to do that.”

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