Villas-Boas: Hard work starts now
Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas has admitted his club's long-term future will be dependent on what transpires in the final few weeks of this season.
Villas-Boas believes a challenge for the Premier League title and a rise up the European pecking order could all be within Tottenham's reach if they secure Champions League football for next season, but he admits failure in their push for a top four finish could have damaging long-term effects.
The Spurs boss hopes he gets the chance to mount a challenge for the Premier League title as early as next season, but he admits that ambitious plan could be derailed if they allow their promise of recent months to slip now.
"So much depends on what will happen from this point on," states Villas-Boas. "If we achieve Champions League qualification (this season), the money available would be different and also the quality of players we can attract. One thing is related to another.
"I think that we have seen many great steps from the club for the future and we want to challenge for titles. Whether it is next year is related to what happens this year. At the moment our focus is on maintaining the distance between the teams that are behind us rather than looking too far at the teams who are challenging for the title in Man City and Manchester United.
"The focus is to maintain the distance mainly to fifth place as that can give us Champions League qualification."
Villas-Boas's desire to secure Tottenham's spot in Europe's elite competition cannot be doubted, yet his passion to succeed in this season's Europa League remains strong ahead of Thursday night's last-16 tie against Inter Milan at White Hart Lane.
Refuting suggestions that he would be taking a risk by playing his first choice line-up against Inter with Sunday's difficult Premier League trip to Liverpool looming large, he insisted the two competitions can be accommodated in his side's list of ambitions.
"Our approach won't change regarding what we feel for this competition," he stressed. "We have enough time to recover after the Inter Milan game for the Liverpool game.
"We don't need to rest anyone. The distance between the Europa League game and the Premier League is fine. There is a problem when you get into the later stages of the season that the overall tiredness of the players can be affected, but at this moment, we are not thinking about this.
"What Tottenham have does this season has contradicted a lot of the science or science fiction that there is not enough rest time to play a Thursday game and then a Sunday game. Not only have our players played well with this experience, they will also tell you that they feel well."
Meanwhile, Villas-Boas has suggested that UEFA could consider handing the winners of the Europa League a place in the Champions League, in a bid to add some gloss to a competition that has been treated with distain by some Premier League clubs in recent years.
"Maybe they could offer a route to the Champions League for the winner of this competition," he added. "It could be an idea to give the Champions League place, to enhance the competition. It is still a respected competition in most of the countries. Something is changing here too in the way people approach this competition."
Villas-Boas confirmed that midfielder Mousa Dembele is fit to play against Inter Milan after picking up a knee injury in the victory over Arsenal on Sunday, but striker Emmanuel Adebayor is doubtful with a knee problem.