Kyle Naughton ready to fill void left by injured Tottenham defender Benoit Assou-Ekotto


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The Independent Football

Kyle Naughton has declared himself the man to fill the void left by Benoit Assou-Ekotto ahead of Tottenham's Europa League opener against Lazio.

Spurs were today still waiting to discover how long left-back Assou-Ekotto would face on the sidelines amid fears he could be ruled out for up to a month.

The 28-year-old missed Andre Villas-Boas' first win in charge at Reading on Sunday with a knee problem that may require a 'washout' procedure, ruling him out for around four weeks.

Losing Assou-Ekotto, who has barely missed a match in the last four seasons, would be seen as a blow to Spurs' hopes of building on their opening Barclays Premier League victory this term.

Jan Vertonghen has filled in at left-back numerous times for Belgium but Villas-Boas decided on Sunday to hand Naughton his full league debut for Tottenham.

Despite playing out of position, the 23-year-old proved up to the challenge at the Madejski Stadium and was hoping to have done enough to keep his place for Thursday's Europa League glamour clash against Lazio.

"It was great to get the three points and that the gaffer gave me a chance to show what I can do," he told his club's official website,

"I played at left-back a few times for Norwich [on loan] last season and hopefully now I can carry on playing.

"Towards the end, I was tiring a little and they got in behind us a little but the more games I play, hopefully the stronger I'll get.

"Everyone's been brilliant and I just hope I can carry on now and play in the Europa League."

Thursday's Group J match is Spurs' first ever competitive meeting with Lazio, to whom they famously sold Paul Gascoigne 20 years ago.

The draw last month prompted the Italian giants to offer to invite the former England midfielder to the reverse fixture in Rome on November 22.

Press Association Sport understands the 45-year-old was also invited to attend Thursday's match but he was unable to accept for personal reasons.

Gascoigne has struggled to deal with alcohol problems since retirement but his agent said this summer that he had embarked on a health drive.

It remains to be seen whether he will attend the game between the sides at the Stadio Olimpico.

Meanwhile, Villas-Boas vowed to take the Europa League seriously ahead of his first match in the competition since winning it with Porto last year.

Harry Redknapp fielded a shadow side last term but Villas-Boas declared he would pick a "strong team".

"We want to do something special in this competition," he said.

"This competition is very important.

"It's a tough competition. You have to play 15 games before you reach the final, so it's hard and strenuous and the best teams out of the Champions League are playing.

"It gives access to the European Super Cup and, for me, I always thought it was a prestigious competition and it should be promoted like that because after the Cup Winners' Cup disappeared, it is not only about the Champions League.

"If we can win a trophy, that represents a lot for Tottenham Hotspur's history as well and would be something really special."

Lazio have begun Serie A with a hat-trick of wins and Spurs' summer signing Gylfi Sigurdsson said: "They are a good team.

"It's great to play in Europe and we're looking forward to that game, trying to get off to a good start.

"It will be important to get three points at home."