TOTTENHAM manager Andre Villas-Boas has warned his players they face the toughest possible test of their Europa League credentials in tonight’s eagerly anticipated showdown with Inter Milan.
Spurs welcome the Italian giants to White Hart Lane on the back of six wins from their last seven games, including consecutive derby triumphs over West Ham and Arsenal.
Consequently, Villas-Boas’s side occupy third spot in the Premier League and are well placed to secure Champions League qualification, yet the Portuguese coach remains determined to take Tottenham as far as possible in the Europa League and claim the scalp of one of his former employers.
“Among the last 16 teams, Inter represent the best of the best for what they have achieved recently and has given us the possibility to play another level of Champions League tie as we did against Lyon,” said Villas-Boas, who won the Europa League with Porto in 2011.
“They have been European champions recently and are going through a tremendous reshuffle of their squad, which they have done properly and invested in young players. We are aware nothing will be decided in the first leg. We need to be cautious and take the game to the second leg, hopefully with an advantage, so we will be able to go through.”
The two-leg tie will bring back fond memories for Tottenham fans, following their Champions League duels in 2010, which conjured up 11 goals in two matches, and for their coach who spent two years at the San Siro as part of Jose Mourinho’s managerial set up.
Villas-Boas worked as a scout with Mourinho, who described him as “my eyes and ears” at Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan, before finally deciding to pursue his own managerial career, and recalls his time in Italy warmly.
“It will be an emotional experience for me,” he said. “Leaving Inter was a difficult step because of all the things I had access to, the knowledge and experience of Jose. But to start my career was something I wanted very much, so I took the risk and left. On reflection, it was the right decision, but at the time it was very difficult.”
Villas-Boas, who intends to pick the strongest team possible tonight, is sweating on the fitness of striker Emmanuel Adebayor, who was stretchered off in Sunday’s 2-1 win against Arsenal with a knee injury.
However, the 35-year-old revealed the injury is not serious and that midfielder Mousa Dembele is fully fit, despite also coming off with a knock in the north London derby.
“Mousa Dembele trained so he’s ready to be involved,” said Villas-Boas.
“We decided not to take Ade into training, but there is a slight possibility he could make it. Tom Huddlestone resumed training this week, but he won’t be involved.”