Villas-Boas: the Europa League deserves respect in England


Andre Villas-Boas is struggling to understand why the Europa League is valued so poorly in England. The Tottenham Hotspur manager's career took off two years ago when he won the competition with Porto, and then replaced Carlo Ancelotti at Chelsea.

The former Spurs manager Harry Redknapp called the tournament a "punishment" but before today's Group J game in Panathinaikos his successor said: "The profile of the competition is raised in other countries, but not England. I don't understand it.

"I respect the competition. It is viewed as a punishment in England and I cannot understand why. It is a traditional trophy. We have lost the Cup Winners' Cup, which I did not think was a good decision. But it was taken to enrich the Europa League."

The last time Spurs were in Greece for the Europa League, Redknapp made his contempt clear by fielding a side with an average age of 23. In contrast, Villas-Boas picked almost his entire first team for the 0-0 draw against Lazio in the first fixture. This time goalkeeper Brad Friedel was the only fit senior member not to travel and Villas-Boas believes success in Europe can help Tottenham's ambitions. "For us to eventually win the Champions League we have to get used to playing in these situations," he said. "I am always to field the strongest team possible. And that can be a benefit in the learning process."

With no Friedel, Hugo Lloris is likely to make his second start since his £8m move from Lyons. Emmanuel Adebayor is out with a hamstring injury, but may return for Sunday's home game against Aston Villa.