Shropshire Star

Aston Villa v Brighton preview: Unai Emery tells players: 'This is our moment'

Unai Emery has urged Villa’s players to seize the moment by beating Brighton and securing a return to Europe.


Villa host the Seagulls on Sunday in their final match of the Premier League season knowing victory will be enough to secure a place in next season’s Europa Conference League and complete the dramatic transformation since Emery took charge at the start of November.

The Spaniard arrived when the team were sat just above the relegation zone having won just three of their first 13 matches. But on Friday he declined to discuss the achievements of the last seven months and insisted his focus is solely on the opportunity now in front of them.

Emery said: “Football is always about the next challenge you face. I want to face the next step, the match on Sunday.

“I told the players, this is our time, this is our moment and we have to enjoy it. We have to connect with our supporters. We are playing for something very important. It was very different last week. We were thinking maybe we could be playing for something (in this last match).

“After drawing at Liverpool, it is in our hands and we have something very important to enjoy and be motivated by.

“In football, things happen so quick and you have to be focused and facing each moment with a good atmosphere, a good energy.

“You have to be with the people around you, the players, the workers and the supporters. We are going to play at Villa Park and that is another positive for us.”

Villa have won their last six on home turf and will be backed by another sell-out crowd, with a large contingent of supporters planning to bring the noise early and meet the team coach when it arrives prior to kick-off.

A win would put Villa back in Europe for the first time since 2010 and extend Emery’s own personal record of managing in European competition to a 16th consecutive season. Anything less would open the door for either Tottenham or Brentford to leapfrog Villa in the table. Spurs travel to relegation-threatened Leeds, while Brentford host champions Manchester City.

Villa won 2-1 at Brighton in Emery’s second match in charge but the boss knows doing the double over Roberto De Zerbi’s team, who have already sealed their spot in next year’s Europa League, will not be easy.

He said: “Brighton have already achieved their objective. They will play in the Europa League.

“But I think their performance is going to be similar because it is a team with a very strong structure. They are using different players but getting the same performances.

“On Sunday, maybe they will change something but their structure is very strong.

“It’s really a big challenge for myself as a coach because I have to understand with the players the last tactical decision about how we are going to play against them.”