Andre Villas-Boas admitted yesterday that he needs to change his players' approach to the Europa League, so that they value it like the Champions League, ahead of Tottenham Hotspur's first game against Lazio tonight.
The Europa League was not a priority for the former manager Harry Redknapp last year and Spurs went out at the group stage. The competition is rather more important to Villas-Boas, who won it with Porto in 2011, and he revealed that he would have to teach his players to value the Thursday night games and physically prepare for them.
"I think the most important thing for you is to change [the mentality] of the players so this midweek game starts being important once again," Villas-Boas said. "Tottenham missed the Champions League through Chelsea winning it. But if this was a Champions League game most of the players would be willing and would be making sure they were completely fit.
"So, based on the respect that we must have for a competition like this, first we have to create the habit of them recovering to play in this midweek game, getting used to playing this midweek game, and therefore creating this habit. I think their mental disposition for the game, their physical disposition, will be extremely higher than before."
Redknapp said last year that playing in the Europa League was like a "punishment", and that playing on Thursday and then on Sunday "messes the whole week up".
Villas-Boas, while keen not to criticise the opinions of others, said that the Europa League was an "extremely difficult competition" which "should be promoted". The demands of playing twice a week, with Queen's Park Rangers coming to White Hart Lane on Sunday, will mean some changes to the team.
"I think everybody is in contention for the game," Villas-Boas said. "Obviously we need to respect that the QPR game is just after this one, too, so some changes can be made in the team and made even to the structure of the team."
Striker Emmanuel Adebayor will not come into the starting line-up against the Italians as a result of a tight hamstring and he joins Benoît Assou-Ekotto, Younes Kaboul (both knee), Jake Livermore (groin) and Scott Parker (Achilles) on the sidelines. However, deadline-day signings Hugo Lloris, the France goalkeeper, and the American midfielder Clint Dempsey, left, could make their first starts for Tottenham.
Since returning from international duty, Lloris has impressed. "The only thing we can say is that his talent is immense and easily visible from the time he has trained with us," added Villas -Boas.Reuse content