Shropshire Star

Unai Emery defends controversial Aston Villa call

Unai Emery defended his decision to make large-scale changes after Villa were beaten 4-1 at Manchester City.

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The Spaniard made five changes to his starting XI and then lost Emi Martinez to illness before kick-off at the Etihad Stadium.

Phil Foden scored a hat-trick as the champions eventually cruised to victory and Emery confirmed his tinkering was with a congested fixture list and Saturday’s visit of Brentford in mind.

He said: “The changes were needed, for injured players and because we will need players to give them confidence playing, practicing.

“We will play a lot of matches in the next week’s starting with Saturday against Brentford and then against Lille.

“It was important to be intelligent, even playing against Manchester City. Of course we were preparing trying to win but with some players injured and others suspended, it was getting practice with some players.”

Villa were already without top scorer Ollie Watkins through injury and skipper John McGinn due to suspension with Leon Bailey and Youri Tielemans among those dropped to the bench.

Jhon Duran, who started in place of Watkins, cancelled out Rodrigo’s opener for the hosts but Villa were eventually overpowered with the excellent Foden leading the way.

The match was Villa’s second of seven in the space of 23 days and Emery said: “We will need players and this is the reason to give them minutes.

“We have to get our space in the table. We are now fourth, even losing today, our challenge now is Saturday and Brentford.

“We beat City at home (earlier in the season) and played very well in different circumstances. But the circumstances we had today were not enough to get three points.”

He continued: “We were motivated and excited, trying to be competitive and to keep being consistent.

“But of course, fighting and playing against Manchester City with their potential. We were competing against the 60th minute.

“We were trying to build our team, to give them chances to play, to get confidence and get some practice playing.

“But Manchester City showed us, even when we were losing 2-1 and had chances, they were pushing a lot and showed their power.”