Andre Villas-Boas believes Tottenham Hotspur can mount a strong challenge in the Europa League this season, as he embarks on his first foray into Europe as the London club's manager tonight.
The perpetually under-fire Spurs boss, whose team face Lazio at White Hart Lane, has already won the trophy during his treble-winning season with Porto in 2010-11 – and he is determined to replicate his European triumph of two seasons ago by securing for Tottenham their third success in the competition.
“We want to do something special in this competition,” he said. “It gives access to the European Super Cup and for me, I always thought about it as a very prestigious competition because after the Cup Winners' Cup disappeared, it's not only about the Champions League, and if we can win a trophy that represents a lot for Tottenham’s history too, that would be something really special.”
Villas-Boas knows how strenuous the Europa League can be on a club's schedule, with any team that makes it to the final having to add a minimum of 11 more fixtures to an already busy domestic campaign.
Add into the mix the prospect of facing one of the third-place teams from the Champions League group stage – a selection of teams that included Manchester United, Manchester City and Valencia last season – and suddenly earning a trip to the Europa League final in the Amsterdam Arena next May looks a difficult task.
“It’s hard and strenuous competition where eventually the best teams out of the Champions League are playing, and the worst teams of the Champions League come back, and sometimes the worst teams we are talking about are the top teams in the world so it’s a very difficult competition to win,” Villas-Boas said.
Spurs kick off their Europa League campaign against Lazio before facing Greek giant Panathinaikos and Slovenia’s Maribor later in the season.