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Tuesday 23 July 2013

Sunderland on different level now, says Villas-Boas

Spurs head coach set for 'exciting' Barclays Asia Trophy semi-final against new-look Sunderland

  • Villas-Boas looks on as Tottenham Hotspur train at Hong Kong Stadium on Tuesday

  • Spurs' Tom Carroll (right) and Benoit Assou-Ekotto prepare for the BAT semi-final

  • Sunderland defender John O'Shea says Spurs pose a threat 'all over the pitch'

  • Villas-Boas and Di Canio (left) last crossed swords on 19 May

Head coach Andre Villas-Boas is looking forward to another "exciting" contest on Wednesday as Tottenham Hotspur prepare to take on a new-look Sunderland side who are now "on a completely different level" in the Barclays Asia Trophy semi-final.

"We have to take Sunderland to be a completely different level than what they were last year"
Andre Villas-Boas

Spurs edged a tense and close-fought encounter against Paolo Di Canio's side at White Hart Lane in the final fixture of 2012/13 Barclays Premier League season, winning the match with Gareth Bale's solitary late goal, but Villas-Boas believes the first of the two Barclays Asia Trophy semi-finals to take place at Hong Kong Stadium will pose an altogether different challenge for his side.

"It was very exciting, particularly the game at White Hart Lane which would have been the [UEFA Champions League] decider – full of drama as it should be – but in the end we got the win we wanted which wasn’t enough to reach our objective and our dream," said Villas-Boas. "The first game was one of our great games away from home in terms of football and last year we had good experiences against them.

"But obviously it will be different now. With Paolo, they have found a new manager that has now had time to set up his squad, choose his players and start from a pre-season, so we have to take them to be a completely different level than what they were last year."

Blooming Rose

The Londoners, who face Sunderland at 11am BST on Wednesday, have also been busy in the transfer market, acquiring Brazil midfielder Paulinho from Corinthians and Belgium winger Nacer Chadli from FC Twente, pending a medical and the agreement of personal terms. Another 'new addition' to the squad is a player who donned the red and white of the Wearsiders last season, and Villas-Boas has been delighted with the progress of Danny Rose, following his successful year-long loan spell in the North-East.

"Spurs have good quality players all over the pitch"
John O'Shea

"He has had an excellent season," said the Portuguese tactician. "He's one of the players that we all want for our future. It was one of those occasions where it's all worked out extremely well for him and he will definitely be part of our squad this season. Credit to him for making it work. This year he'll want to be involved with Tottenham and hopefully he'll have a big future ahead of him."

Unfortunately for Villas-Boas, Spurs they will be without last season's multiple award winning forward Bale for the semi-final, and although Sunderland's captain for the tournament John O'Shea admits the Welshman's absence represents a loss for the Lilywhites, he is nonetheless anticipating a stern test.

"I'd have to say it would be [a loss], as he's one of the best players in the world," said the Republic of Ireland international. "But whoever Tottenham play – whether it'd be [Emmanuel] Adebayor, [Jermain] Defoe, Bale – they have good quality players all over the pitch. We'll still have to be 100 per cent focused, with Bale or without Bale."

Spurs also intend to maintain a good record against the Black Cats, whom they have beaten in four of their last five Barclays Premier League meetings, and captain Michael Dawson is looking forward to extending that sequence.

Dawson raring to go

"Last season at the Stadium Of Light we had a good game – a good win – and then the final day [of the season] was one of those games where we concentrated on what we did and performed well," said Dawson. "Pre-season is a little bit different; players need to get minutes under their belt and try and perform as well as we can. It's one that we're looking forward to. The temperature will be a little bit different, but everyone is ready to go."

"You're going to see a different team that plays together; that tries to play football"
Paolo Di Canio

Di Canio is also looking forward to seeing how his players gel against opposition of the highest calibre. The Italian has made eight signings – goalkeeper Vito Mannone; defenders Valentin Roberge and Modibo Diakite; midfielders Cabral and El Hadji Ba; wingers David Moberg Karlsson and Emanuele Giaccherini and striker Jozy Altidore – and has been delighted with the way they have settled in so far.

"We made a revolution some weeks ago," said Di Canio. "To be honest, I wasn't worried in the beginning and now even more so, because the lads are working so hard. I'm very happy the way that the lads are approaching the training sessions so they have already done a good job. We're still in the middle of the pre-season, so you can see the team are not 100% fit.

"You're going to see a different team that plays together; that tries to play football. Against Tottenham I'm sure we will give a good performance."

Among his new recruits the former Swindon Town manager is expecting particularly big things from his compatriot, Giaccherini, who was prised away from Italian giants Juventus after having won successive Serie A titles.

"I'm sure that Giaccherini will impress everybody," he said. "There is no doubting his technical quality as a footballer in general. He will be one of the best players in this League, because in the last two or three years he was one of the best players in one of the best national teams in the world. In the [FIFA] Confederations Cup he was one of the most positive players. He's a very humble guy."

Tottenham Hotspur (from): Lloris, Friedel, Gomes, Walker, Naughton, Assou-Ekotto, Vertonghen, Dawson, Caulker, Kaboul, Rose, Lennon, Townsend, Bale, Huddlestone, Dembele, Sandro, Parker, Livermore, Carroll, Dempsey, Sigurdsson, Holtby, Defoe, Adebayor.

Sunderland (from): Brown, Cabral, Larsson, Gardner, Wickham, Johnson, Pickford, Colback, Vaughan, O’Shea, Altidore, Mandron, Moberg Karlsson, Westwood, Ba, McClean, Cuellar, Mannone, Sessegnon, Roberge, Giaccherini.

There are some tickets still available for this match, as well as Manchester City v South China. To find out how to buy them click here.

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Key Points

  • Spurs head coach Andre Villas-Boas looking forward to 'exciting' Barclays Asia Trophy semi-final against Sunderland on Wednesday
  • Portuguese says Black Cats are "on a different level" following their new signings
  • Paolo Di Canio says Sunderland have been 'revolutionised' and that Emanuele Giaccherini will be 'one of the best players in the League next season'