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 won the competition with Porto. In that campaign he won four trophies, then replaced Carlo Ancelotti at Chelsea.
The former Spurs manager Harry Redknapp described participating in the tournament as a "punishment" but ahead of today's Group J encounter in Panathinaikos his successor said: "The profile of the competition is raised in other countries, but not England. I don't understand it.
"I'm also not in a position to criticise other managers' approach to the competition. I respect the competition. I certainly think 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 to play in the Europa League, Redknapp made his contempt towards the competition clear when he fielded 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 match of this campaign.
The goalkeeper Brad Friedel was the only fit senior squad member not to make the trip to Athens and Villas-Boas believes success in Europe can help Tottenham's chances of lifting the ultimate prize in European football. "For us to go on and eventually win the Champions League we have to get used to playing in these situations, both physically and mentally," he said. "I am always to field the strongest team possible. And that can be a benefit in the learning process."
Friedel's absence means Hugo Lloris is likely to make his second start since his £8m move from Lyons. Emmanuel Adebayor has not travelled with the team due to a hamstring injury, but could be fit for Sunday's home game against Aston Villa.
Panathinaikos (4-4-1-1): Karnezis; Vyntra, Boumsong, Velaquez, Spyropoulos; Christodoulopoulos, Mavrias, Vitolo, Zeca; Sissoko; Fornaroli.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-2-3-1): Lloris; Walker, Caulker, Dawson, Vertonghen; Dembele, Huddlestone; Townsend, Sigurdsson, Bale; Defoe.
Referee F Meyer (Ger).
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