Tottenham begin their Europa League campaign on Thursday night with the arrival of unbeaten Serie A giants Lazio. Unlike predecessor Harry Redknapp, current Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas has vowed to field a strong side throughout the campaign, meaning the likes of Jermain Defoe, Dembele and Jan Vertonghen will almost certainly start tomorrow night's match.
Redknapp opted to blood a number of youngsters during the Europa League last term and was accused of treating the competition with contempt after he took just 15 players to Dublin for the team's final group game against Shamrock Rovers. Redknapp insisted Tottenham's league form would suffer if they fielded a full side in Europe, but Dembele insists the team can fight on both fronts this term.
"We have a big squad and very good players so I think we can be very strong in both competitions," Dembele said. "You are a top team if you have a big squad and very good players so I'm not concerned to have success in both."
Dembele's experience with Fulham in the Europa League last term was, in part, a disappointing one. The west London outfit failed to make it out of their group and Dembele was sent off during their October match against Wisla Krakow - a result which severely dented the team's chances of making the knockout stages. The manner of the dismissal still grates Dembele. With 28 minutes gone Dembele pushed Gervasio Nunez gently on the shoulder after the Argentine kicked the midfielder on the ankle. Nunez fell dramatically to the turf holding his face and Dembele was given a straight red.
"It was not easy to take, that red card," he said. "The guy stood on my foot for no reason, and when I turned round and pushed him very softly on the shoulder, he fell down dramatically and I was sent off. "I have to learn from this experience, but personally I don't like this style - I don't agree with people who dive to get their opponents sent off. "I guess it's part of football, and everybody has his own way of trying to win games, but if players want to win by behaving like that, it is their problem. "Unfortunately I think it is a bigger problem in Europe than in the Premier League - where the mentality is to stand up and be strong. That's why I enjoy playing for a club like Tottenham, where the accent is on playing good football in an honest way. "I am happy to be here because the style, and the manner of thinking, is in line with the way I think about the game."
Villas-Boas' failure to land Joao Moutinho from Porto on deadline day means Dembele looks set to be employed in the playmaker role in which Luka Modric excelled. But Dembele, who can also operate up front or as a number 10, insists he should not be likened to the Croatian, who moved to Real Madrid for an initial £25million this summer. "I don't like (being compared to Modric)," the 25-year-old said. "If you ask me who was the best player here last year I would say Modric was in the top three. I'm a big fan of him but he has other qualities than me. "I'm not going to look how he played. I'm going to play my own game." Although Lazio are one of the form teams in Europe, Dembele has urged his team to start their campaign with a win given that they face the daunting task of visiting Panathinaikos next. "Lazio are a big team and I think and 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