Tottenham's Europa League tie against Lyons will be dress rehearsal for Champions League says Andre Villas-Boas

Spurs manager excited by draw but concedes beating French side will be 'extremely difficult'

Andre Villas-Boas hardly knew whether to laugh or cry when his Tottenham Hotspur side was drawn with Lyons in the last 32 of the Europa League yesterday, describing the tie as both "tremendous" and "one of the worst you could get".

Spurs are desperate to return to the Champions League and so there is a thrill at the prospect of playing a team who recently won seven straight French titles. Villas-Boas agreed it would be a "Champions League dress rehearsal".

"This is the step we want to take towards the future, so in some ways it is a good draw for us regarding where we want to be in the future," Villas-Boas said. "But it is an extremely difficult draw for us, amongst one of the worst teams you could get."

Villas-Boas was also pleased that his Tottenham team have the "extremely difficult draw" with Lyons, who are coached by former Arsenal player Rémi Garde, in the next round because the quality and prestige of the tie ought to promote the competition in England.

"Lyons is tremendous in the sense it gives the opportunity for this country to see wonderful Europa League fixtures being played," said Villas-Boas, who also pointed out Liverpool's draw against Zenit St Petersburg. "Both of them can be considered like Champions League fixtures. This is something important for how the competition is seen in this country."

Lyons reached the Champions League semi-final as recently as 2010, with a long run in the competition coinciding with their seven consecutive French titles between 2002 and 2008.

"Lyons are used to being in Champions League and to winning trophies," Villas-Boas said, "so they are an important reference for us if we want to set our target to Champions League. They are the sort of team we will face, with a winning mentality, and with excellent players.

"You see how well they have been doing in the league this year. They have been knocked off first place by Paris Saint-Germain but they are rebuilding again."

Spurs bought goalkeeper Hugo Lloris from Lyons in the summer and Villas-Boas said he had not yet made the decision whether the France international would get to play against his former club. Brad Friedel has been in goal in Spurs' recent Europa League fixtures.

Chelsea, who became the first holders not to reach the knockout stages of the Champions League, will start their bid to become only the fourth club after Juventus, Ajax and Bayern Munich to win all of the major European trophies as they attempt to usurp defending champions Atletico Madrid.

The Blues avoided a rematch with Atletico, who handed them a 4-1 drubbing in the Super Cup back in August, and as a seeded team will start their Europa League campaign in Prague.

If they can beat Sparta, Chelsea will play either Ajax or Steaua Bucharest in the last 16. Atletico drew Russian side Rubin Kazan as they seek to defend the title they won with a comprehensive 3-0 defeat of Athletic Bilbao in last year's all-Spanish final in Bucharest.

Liverpool travel to St Petersburg for the first leg to face a Zenit team who hit the headlines this week when their largest supporters group, Landscrona, caused widespread outrage by declaring their preferred criteria for future signings excluded sexual minorities and non-Europeans.

For Newcastle manager Alan Pardew the club's game in Ukraine will be a trip into the dark after they were paired with little-known Metalist Kharkiv.

Asked what he knew about their opponents, Pardew said: "Not much, really. I do know it's a long journey, and they won their group, so it's a tough agenda for us.

"It's a tough draw in terms of travel; the opposition, I know very little about. I can't even comment on that until such time as we do some studying."

Elsewhere, Champions League dropouts BATE Borisov face Turkey's Fenerbahçe, while Spain's Levante take on Olympiakos and Dynamo Kiev are paired with Ligue 1's Bordeaux. Germany's Stuttgart host Genk and Bayer Leverkusen play Benfica.

Borussia Mönchengladbach face Lazio, while Swiss champions Basle play Dnipro of the Ukraine, Russia's Anzhi Makhachkala are against Hannover and Napoli take on Czech side Viktoria Plzen.

Europa League: Draw details

* Round of 32 draw (selected)

Zenit St Petersburg v Liverpool

Newcastle United v Metalist Kharkiv

Sparta Prague v Chelsea

Tottenham Hotspur v Lyons

First legs: 14 February; second legs: 21 Feb

Lowdown on English opponents:

Zenit St Petersburg Spent big in the summer to bring in Axel Witsel and Hulk but was not enough to guarantee Champions League progression. Beat Rangers to win this competition in 2008.

Metalist Kharkiv A trip to eastern Ukraine awaits Newcastle, against a multicultural side who reached the last eight last year, and beat Everton in 2007-08.

Sparta Prague Petr Cech faces his former employers, for whom Vaclav Kadlec, 20, will be one to watch, with four Europa League goals this season.

Lyons At last beginning to reach heights of domestic dominance of 2002-2008 once more. Led by the goals of Bafétimbi Gomis, only inferior goal difference is currently keeping them off the top of Ligue 1.

* Round of 16 draw (selected)

Anzhi Makhachkala/Hannover v Newcastle United/Metalist Kharkiv

Tottenham Hotspur/Lyons v Internazionale/CFR Cluj

Basel/Dnipro v Zenit St Petersburg/Liverpool

Ajax/Steaua Bucharest v Sparta Prague/Chelsea

First legs: 7 March; second legs: 14 March

* Remaining dates 4 & 11 April: Quarter-finals

25 April & 2 May: Semi-finals

15 May: Final (Amsterdam)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most