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Aston Villa’s Return to Europe

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It’s been over a decade since Aston Villa competed in European competition, but the Claret and Blue are back in the ascendancy. They remain a part of the small but elite group of English sides to have lifted the European Cup, and given the size of the club, competing on the continent should be a far more common occurrence.

Rapid Rise Under Emery

The appointment of Unai Emery has no doubt had a mammoth impact at Villa Park. His stewardship has been the difference between a 14th place finish in 2021-22, and a 7th place finish just a year later.

Things can change quickly in football. You only have to look at the favourites to win the Championship to see that. Leicester are top of the pile at 16/5 to win the league, but it was just two seasons ago the Foxes finished seven points ahead of Villa in the Premier League, as they went in search of European football themselves.

Leeds (6/1) and Southampton (6/1) trail Leicester in the Championship winner odds, but it feels like yesterday that pundits were ranting and raving about the game-changing style of Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds, as well as the Saints seemingly at the beginning of a meteoric rise under Mauricio Pochettino.

However, something feels different at Villa Park. This is a club with a storied history, and Emery appears to be steering the ship back toward greatness.

Serious Summer Signings

You only have to take a peek at the Villans’ transfer window activity to know that Emery means business.

They pipped a long line of suitors to acquire the services of playmaker Youri Tielemans, as well as adding the signature of hotly-rated Pau Torres.

These are players with a wealth of European experience. It was just three years ago that Torres featured as an integral part of Villarreal’s Europa League triumph. He was highly sought after for a long time, with European giants lining up to secure his talents.

When you add these players to an already star-studded squad featuring the likes of Emi Martinez, Douglas Luiz, Emi Buendia, Philippe Coutinho, Leon Bailey, and Ollie Watkins, you can’t help but have high expectations. This Villa side could make waves in the Europa Conference League.

Realistic European Expectations

West Ham lifted the trophy, so why can’t Villa? Emery’s side is arguably more well-rounded than David Moyes’ was on that famous night in Prague.

The strongest teams going into qualifying are undoubtedly last season’s finalists Fiorentina, 2022 Europa League champions Frankfurt, and 2021 Ligue 1 winners Lille.

But Emery is no stranger to European football and he has typically risen to the big occasion. The coach has four Europa League titles to his name, three with Sevilla and one with Villarreal. Not to mention those three with Sevilla coming in consecutive campaigns, a truly historic feat.

So, why not Villa? Emery will likely place huge emphasis on the competition given the history at Villa Park. Although their league form might suffer as a result of the schedule, there is every reason to believe Villa can go far in the competition.

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