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Sep 18, 2012

Villas-Boas targets Europa League

Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas says the Europa League is a trophy his side are determined to win.

Spurs welcome Lazio on Thursday for their opening game of European football's second-tier tournament, before facing Panathinaikos and Maribor, also in their group.

The trophy has long been derided by many, with the club fielding a second-string team in last year's competition, as Harry Redknapp preferred to focus on their Champions League qualification push.

Yet Villas-Boas has a soft spot for the trophy, after winning it with Porto in 2011, and he is desperate to repeat that success with his new club.

"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."

Spurs last won a European trophy in 1984, when they defeated Anderlecht on penalties to win the UEFA Cup, the predecessor to the Europa League. And Villas-Boas sees the modern incarnation as an excellent opportunity to create history at the club.

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

One of Villas-Boas's new signings, Mousa Dembele, wants his side to start their campaign with a bang on Thursday.

Dembele, 25, who was in the Fulham side that were knocked out of the group stages last season, knows that a win against Lazio will give Spurs a great chance of progressing though the group stages.

"Lazio is a big team and I think Panathinaikos will be difficult too so that's why we have to win this game tomorrow so we can go (to Greece) with more confidence," he said. "This is a very important competition for us. There are some good teams in this competition but I think we can do something in it."

The Belgian international made his first start for his new club on Sunday as Tottenham defeated Reading 3-1.

And the former Fulham man believes his side's first win of the season will give them a huge lift ahead of Thursday.

"That win was very important for us because it took the pressure off us," he said. "It wasn't an easy game. Reading are a good team. We have a better spirit in the team now, there is a lot of positive energy in the squad now."

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