Villas-Boas, who lifted the trophy in his first season in charge at Porto in 2011, thinks the quality on display in the second-tier competition should not be underestimated after Thursday's last-32 draw in Nyon threw up some tough fixtures.
While reigning European champions Chelsea will face Sparta Prague in the knockout stages and Newcastle have been paired with Metalist Kharkiv, Liverpool's game with Russian champions Zenit St Petersburg is another mouthwatering tie worthy of the Champions League, according to the Portuguese.
"Lyon is a tremendous tie for us in the sense that it gives this country, along with the Liverpool game, the chance to see wonderful Europa League fixtures being played," Villas-Boas told reporters.
"Zenit-Liverpool and Tottenham-Lyon should both be considered like Champions League fixtures so I think this is something important for the competition, for how it's seen in this country.
"The fact that we play Lyon, who are used to being in the Champions League and used to winning trophies, it's an important reference for us.
"If we want to set our targets for Champions League qualification, this is the kind of team we will face, teams with a winning mentality, full of quality players.
"In that sense I think it's excellent for the publicity of the competition in this country."