Brighton & Hove Albion-Aston Villa Preview
Unai Emery admits Aston Villa face "the most difficult step" in attempting to secure European football when they host Brighton and Hove Albion on Sunday.
Seventh-place Villa are a point ahead of Tottenham, who face relegation-threatened Leeds United, and will seal the final European qualifying spot by bettering Spurs' result at Elland Road.
Villa would subsequently qualify for at least the Europa Conference League play-offs next season, marking their first appearance on the continent since the 2010-11 Europa League qualifying rounds.
And Emery has urged his players to grab the opportunity with both hands.
"We have to be very ambitious, and I am," the Spaniard said during his pre-match press conference.
"I'm here trying to push everybody, to demand from everybody to get better playing and to take European places.
"I'm very, very happy with the players and their commitment, their character and they are responding very well. We are also connecting with our supporters.
"It's the next step because we started by escaping from the bottom [of the table], we got into the top 10 and then we have the objective to be in the European places.
"The most difficult step is to get it, but we have our objective. And then if we don't, it's not changing our idea or our mind about how we want to improve."
Meanwhile, sixth-place Brighton have already secured European football next term for the first time in their history, but Roberto De Zerbi still wants the Seagulls to end a memorable campaign on a high.
"We have to arrive ready; the holidays have not started yet," he said.
"We have to respect ourselves, the club and fans in every game and every training session. We have to play seriously. We go to Birmingham to win and play in our way."
Aston Villa - Jacob Ramsey
Ramsey has scored in Villa's last two matches, and in three of their last five outings on home soil. The midfielder, who turns 22 on Sunday, is aiming to become the first Villa player to score a Premier League goal on their birthday since Julian Joachim in September 1997. He would also be the first player in the Premier League overall to achieve the feat in the final match of the season.
Brighton and Hove Albion - Danny Welbeck
Welbeck has been directly involved in five goals in his last four Premier League appearances on matchday 38 (two goals, three assists). Those goals came in each of the striker's last two such games with Watford (against Arsenal in 2019-20) and Brighton (against West Ham United last season).
Villa have won their last six Premier League home games - scoring 12 goals and conceding just once - last winning seven in a row between December 1992 and February 1993.
The Villans have also prevailed in each of their last three Premier League meetings with Brighton, having won just once in the previous seven showdowns.
Brighton have only failed to score in one of their 18 away league matches this season, but the Seagulls have lost their final game in three of their five Premier League campaigns.
Aston Villa - 37.4%
Brighton and Hove Albion - 33.1%
Draw - 29.5%
Updated May 27, 2023