AVB challenges Spurs to send a message

Andre Villas-Boas has challenged Tottenham to show they are capable of cutting it in the Champions League by beating Lyon on Thursday.

Jan Vertonghen, Tottenham

 

Villas-Boas will take one more step towards securing his second Europa League trophy on Thursday if Spurs overcome Lyon in their second-round first leg against the French club at White Hart Lane.

While manager Villas-Boas regards the competition highly, chairman Daniel Levy, and the club's fans, would surely forfeit their place in the Europa League if it meant the London club qualified for the Champions League next season.

Spurs supporters long for a return to the biggest club competition in Europe following their heroics in the competition two seasons ago when they reached the quarter-finals, and the team are currently on course for qualification via the league, where they sit in fourth with 12 games to go.

Given that Lyon possess such stars as Lisandro Lopez, Yoann Gourcuff and Bafetimbi Gomis, Villas-Boas believes Lyon should be playing in the Champions League - indeed they reached the last four of the competition just four years ago.

For that reason, he thinks the two fixtures could go a long way towards proving whether his men should also be competing among Europe's elite.

"This could be a test of whether we're good enough to play in the Champions League," he said.

"I think we've been handed the most difficult draw of this knock-out phase. This is like a Champions League tie.

"Lyon represent a club with tremendous Champions League experience in recent years.

"It will be a good test for Tottenham. It's always going to be a learning experience for us and I think it can serve that purpose towards the future, that's for sure."

Villas-Boas has made it clear that he is completely averse to the idea that the Europa League is a weak competition and insists success on the continent will help his team succeed domestically this term.

He will therefore name a full-strength line-up for the visit of Lyon, who are second in Ligue 1, on Thursday - but with one exception.

Villas-Boas has regularly talked about the importance of pitting players against their former clubs - but he revealed on Wednesday that Hugo Lloris is likely to be on the bench for the visit of his former club as he wants to give former number one Brad Friedel a run-out in goal.

"Most likely Brad is going to be in goal," the Portuguese said.

"It's a decision we've already taken. We know this tie represents a lot to Hugo on a personal level but, out of respect ad confidence to Brad, we will continue to apply the same principle we have in the past and rotate the goalkeepers."

"I suppose it's kind of a regret (that Lloris is not playing). It is for all of us," former Arsenal defender Remi Garde said.

"He was very much loved at Lyon. He made a big impression.

"He was a great guy so it would have been nice to have the experience of coming up against him, rather than just seeing him in the corridor."

Villas-Boas has a selection quandary in defence, with Michael Dawson, Steven Caulker and Jan Vertonghen all vying for a place in the team alongside expected starter William Gallas.

Gallas started most of Tottenham's games in the first half of the season, but has struggled to win his place back following a calf injury, with Dawson impressing in the Frenchman's place.

Villas-Boas, who expects to have Younes Kaboul back to full fitness in two weeks, admits he will have to cut one of his centre-backs loose at the end of the season, with Gallas the most likely candidate to leave given that his contract expires in June - two months before he turns 36.

"We won't start another season with five (centre-backs), for sure," Villas-Boas said.

"It's a difficult one. We have five top central defenders at the moment - a mixture of young players coming through with lots of experience, and then you have such tremendous central defenders as William, Dawson and Younes Kaboul.

"William has been a massive player for us this season. He's a player we trust a lot. Whatever we decide regarding his future, we'll have to wait and see, but we are aware of what a presence he's been for us this season."

Dawson turned down the chance to move to QPR in order to fight for a place in Villas-Boas' starting XI, but the Portuguese overlooked the England defender for the opening third of the campaign.

The 29-year-old has since worked his way back in to the Villas-Boas' XI, however, starting the club's last seven Barclays Premier League games.

When asked whether he thought it was a mistake to let the former Nottingham Forest man speak to QPR, Villas-Boas said: "Yes. I think we appreciate the fact we were able to hang on to him.

"We ended up being on the better side by the fact he agreed to stay with us. We were lucky in that sense."

 



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