Unai Emery has signed a new five-year deal with Aston Villa after guiding the club into the Champions League last season.

The Spaniard, whose existing deal still had another three years to run, has put pen to paper on fresh terms that will keep him at Villa Park until 2029.

Villa were 17th in the Premier League when Emery succeeded Steven Gerrard in November 2022, but he dragged them away from danger to a seventh-place finish.

The former Sevilla and Paris Saint-Germain head coach then oversaw a memorable 2023-24 season, in which the Villans finished fourth and qualified for Europe's premier club competition for the first time in 41 years.

Villa also reached the Europa Conference League semi-finals, losing out to Olympiacos, and Emery is thrilled to extend his stay at Villa Park.

"I am very happy to take this step and the responsibility of leading this club," he said.

"There’s great chemistry at Aston Villa, and the element of the fans’ support also makes the difference to feel like home. We are really excited to continue this journey with no limits to our dreams."

"We are building something special here at Aston Villa with Unai at its core, and we are delighted that he has signed a new deal with the club until 2029," chairman Nassef Sawiris added.

"As we move into our historic, 150th anniversary year, there is a lot to look forward to with Unai at the helm."

Pep Guardiola has been named Premier League Manager of the Season for the fifth time after leading Manchester City to a fourth straight title.

City edged out Arsenal by two points on the final day of the season to win their eighth Premier League title, their sixth under Guardiola and their fourth in a row.

They are the first team in English football history to win more than three consecutive titles, while Guardiola is just the fourth manager to win six English top-flight crowns. 

Alex Ferguson leads the way with 13, while Guardiola has matched former Aston Villa manager George Ramsay and Liverpool legend Bob Paisley.

With 11, Ferguson is also the only person to win the Premier League Manager of the Season award more often than Guardiola, with his fifth dragging him further clear of Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger (three each).

Guardiola also claimed the prize after overseeing title-winning campaigns in 2017-18, 2018-19, 2020-21 and 2022-23.

Having seen off competition from four other nominees, Guardiola said they deserved to share the honour with him.

"I want to share it, especially with Mikel [Arteta] for the incredible job he has done until the last game, bringing us to our limits," said Guardiola.

"Of course, for Jurgen [Klopp], for the unforgettable battles for many, many years. And Unai Emery, making something unbelievable again to bring Aston Villa to the Champions League.

"And Andoni Iraola, with Bournemouth, being his first season in the Premier League, doing what he has done and coming back from a tough start to the season.

"It is an honour to be alongside all of them and to win this trophy. We will defend this award as best as possible in the future."

Jean-Philippe Mateta stole the show with a hat-trick as Crystal Palace ended the Premier League season unbeaten in seven straight games after a 5-0 hammering of Aston Villa at Selhurst Park.

Palace manager Oliver Glasner replaced Roy Hodgson in February and has made an immediate impression on the Eagles, with promising signs awaiting his first full season in England next term.

Mateta has been one of many Palace players to enjoy an upturn in form since Glasner's arrival, with the in-form striker's deadly first-half double paving the way for an impressive victory on Sunday.

Frenchman Mateta completed his hat-trick with a well-taken finish in the second half, in between a pair of eye-catching Eberechi Eze goals, as Palace's dominant triumph saw them finish 10th in the table.

This final-day defeat will not dampen the mood too much for Unai Emery's fourth-placed Villa, who head into next season with UEFA Champions League football awaiting.

Selhurst Park erupted after just nine minutes when Michael Olise slipped a delicate pass into the area for Mateta, who blasted a left-footed effort past the helpless Robin Olsen.

Villa responded with a barrage on Palace's goal, but Dean Henderson denied a well-struck Moussa Diaby volley before Marc Guehi cleared Ollie Watkins' looping header on the line.

Glasner's Eagles struck another decisive blow six minutes before the interval as Daniel Munoz swept a low cross for Mateta to slam into the top-left corner from close range.

Olsen stopped Olise from making it 3-0 on the stroke of half-time, with his low curling attempt pushed away by the Villa goalkeeper, who replaced Emiliano Martinez for this final-day meeting.

Yet Olsen had no chance after 54 minutes as Eze danced inside from the left and powered into the bottom-left corner, before the Palace midfielder teed up Mateta to complete his treble with a well-taken finish from the right of goal nine minutes later.

Palace's in-form striker thought he had another to add to his tally moments later but a VAR review ruled the Frenchman offside after racing onto a long pass in behind.

Mateta responded to that VAR decision by setting up Eze to drive another brilliant attempt into the bottom-left corner from the edge of the area after 69 minutes and complete a dominant victory.

Palace excitement builds with Glasner

Prior to this game, Palace had won five of their last six Premier League games (D1), as many as they had in their previous 27 (D8 L14). 

The Eagles smashed Manchester United 4-0 and Wolves 3-1 in their last two games before this victory made it three Premier League wins in a row, while Palace scored 3+ goals in each triumph for the first time in their top-flight history.

Austrian Glasner's next challenge will be to keep up the improvements going into next season, with Palace – boasting quality in the likes of Eze, Mateta and Olise – capable of competing in the top half of the table.

Amazing Emery inspires Villa revival

Villa were only promoted back to the Premier League five years ago, after their Championship play-off final victory over Derby County, but will be preparing for Champions League football next term.

That remarkable rise to compete with Europe's elite can largely be apportioned to Emery, who was appointed in October 2022 after Steven Gerrard was dismissed with Villa struggling at the bottom half of the league table.

The Spaniard, a record four-time winner of the Europa League, has 35 wins in 63 games of his Premier League managerial career with Villa – a record he will hope to continue improving next season.

Unai Emery has his sights set on winning the Premier League or Champions League with Aston Villa after securing a top-four finish earlier this week.

Fifth-place Tottenham's defeat to title-chasing Manchester City on Tuesday meant Villa will play in Europe's premier club competition next season for the first time in 41 years.

Emery's side conclude a memorable season – in which they also reached the Europa Conference League semi-finals – away at Crystal Palace on the final day.

And the Spaniard is already focused on achieving bigger and better things with Villa. 

"It really was amazing when the [Tottenham-Manchester City] match finished," he smiled. "At the beginning of the season, it was really a dream. Of course, we worked hard to try to be there.

"I want to get better, and I have my dreams, and I believe in my dreams. Of course, my objectives are to win the Premier League or the Champions League. We are not contenders, but it is our dream to achieve something like that."

Meanwhile, Palace have enjoyed a strong finish to the season, winning five of their last six games.

The Eagles could seal a top-half finish with a victory – and other results going their way – and Oliver Glasner has urged his players to use that as inspiration at Selhurst Park.

"I'm pleased with the performances we've had," he said. "We want to win. We always focus on what we can influence. If we don't do our job, we don't win, we can't be 10th. It's good motivation at home to say thank you to the fans."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Crystal Palace – Jean-Philippe Mateta

Mateta has scored in each of his last six home Premier League appearances for Palace, netting eight goals along the way. 

He is now aiming to become only the second Frenchman after Thierry Henry to find the net in seven successive Premier League appearances on home soil.

Aston Villa – Ollie Watkins

Watkins has recorded the most assists in the Premier League this season with 13.

Only Ashley Young has ever provided more during a single Premier League campaign for Villa (14 in 2007-08).

MATCH PREDICTION: DRAW

Palace are unbeaten on each of the previous 11 occasions they have finished a top-flight season with a home match (winning seven, drawing four).

By contrast, Villa have only won once in the 25 occasions they have finished a league campaign with an away game (drawn seven, lost 17).

That sole victory came against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in 2001-02.

On a brighter note, Villa are unbeaten in their last 10 Premier League away games in London, winning five of their six this term. 

With 16 such points this season, a win or draw here would set a new Premier League record for the most achieved during a single campaign.

Although, you must go back to their title-winning season of 1980-81 for the last time they completed a league double over Palace.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Crystal Palace: 31.8%
Aston Villa: 39.5%
Draw: 28.7

Italy forward Nicolo Zaniolo will miss Euro 2024 after suffering a foot injury during Aston Villa's Premier League draw with Liverpool on Monday.

Zaniolo – who joined Unai Emery's side on a season-long loan from Galatasaray last August – came on as a second-half substitute as they fought back from 3-1 down to clinch a 3-3 draw at Villa Park.

That result moved Villa closer to securing Champions League qualification, which was confirmed when Tottenham lost 2-0 at home to Manchester City on Tuesday.

Zaniolo only lasted 14 minutes following his 65th-minute introduction before being withdrawn himself, though, and scans have shown he sustained a microfracture to his foot.

The 24-year-old has now confirmed he will be unable to feature in Italy's title defence at the Euros, with their Group B campaign set to begin against Albania on June 15.  

In a post to his Instagram account, Zaniolo wrote: "Thank you for your support in these hours, to you Villans and to the many Italian and Turkish fans. I can't wait to get back on the field stronger than before!

"Unfortunately, I will have to give up my dream of representing my country in a major competition. But that day will come, I'm sure, and it will be beautiful! Come on Azzurri!"

Zaniolo also missed Italy's triumphant run at the delayed Euro 2020 three years ago as he was recovering from a ruptured cruciate ligament.

Unai Emery says Aston Villa have achieved their dream after qualification for next season's Champions League was secured.

Tottenham's 2-0 defeat to Manchester City on Tuesday left Ange Postecoglou's fifth-place side five points behind Villa, who subsequently sealed a fourth-place finish with a game to spare.

More importantly, the Villans are back in UEFA's premier club competition for the first time since the 1982-83 season, when they suffered European Cup quarter-final elimination to Juventus.

Additionally, the club secured their highest top-flight finish since the 1995-96 campaign, which they also ended in fourth place.

Emery, whose side reached this season's Europa Conference League semi-finals, now has his sights set on Europe's top prize next season, in which he is demanding even more from his players.

"It's a very special day," the Spaniard told Villa's official media channels. "It was our dream when we started the season to be here. To play Champions League is, after the Premier League, the best.

"You can play in the Premier League against the best teams in the world, it's very difficult. When you are playing in the Champions League, you are playing against the best teams, at the same time, from other countries. And it's amazing.

"We know the history of Aston Villa is so long and so successful. Even in the Champions League, we knew the responsibility was to try to increase our level, try to be demanding and to dream.

"I want to enjoy more and, next year, the new challenge starts for us. To build a team again, and be strong to go and always increase our level; this is our objective."

Aston Villa will play in Europe's top continental competition for the first time in 41 years next season after qualifying for the Champions League.

Tottenham's 2-0 defeat to Manchester City on Tuesday sealed Villa's fourth-place finish in the Premier League.

Unai Emery's side have not played in UEFA's premier club competition since the 1982-83 season, when they suffered quarter-final elimination to Juventus in the European Cup.

Villa were knocked out of the Europa Conference League in the semi-finals this term by Olympiacos, but will now have their eyes on Europe's top prize in the Champions League next campaign.

Unai Emery has praised "special" Jhon Duran after his late brace secured Aston Villa a point in a thrilling 3-3 draw with Liverpool in the Premier League on Monday.

The Reds looked to be on their way to a 3-1 despite Youri Tielemans’ strike after Cody Gakpo and Jarell Quansah added to Emiliano Martinez’s early own goal.

However, Duran's 79th-minute introduction changed the game as the Colombian scored twice in three minutes to salvage a draw.

Villa needed a win to secure a Champions League spot, but a point keeps their fate in their own hands despite Tottenham having a game in hand against Manchester City on Tuesday.

Emery was full of praise for his forward, acknowledging how important his goals could be by Sunday.

Speaking to Sky Sports, he said: "Jhon Duran is a special player. We have to try and help him. He is a good guy, and he needs a team behind him. He is getting our demands better. He was very clinical and today was important for him.

"Today we are celebrating with our supporters, we have to push it and keep working and be consistent. We were consistent all the season. The team was being mature and always consistent in our mind. Inch by inch we did it.

"We are very proud of the season. It is not enough at the moment to get fourth. Even after we scored the two goals, we had chances. We are celebrating the season here with our supporters in Villa Park.

"We are only thinking of us. We will prepare for our match on Sunday, everything is in our hands."

Villa were on a three-game losing run going into the Liverpool contest, and John McGinn highlighted the team’s strong mentality to avoid another defeat.

"It's a brilliant effort towards the end. We got a bit of luck. It's been a tough few weeks with lads coming back and playing through the pain barrier. This place got us going," he told Sky Sports after the game.

"There's some of us that have never been close to the Champions League in our life. The manager has a no-excuse mentality. People have written us off and we've floated under the radar. We'll have our Man City tops on tomorrow.

"Big Jhon [Duran] is a bit nuts and is a nightmare to have in your team, but he's got quality. We need to keep his feet on the ground over the next couple of days."

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has praised the "incredible job" Unai Emery has done during his time at Aston Villa ahead of Monday's contest between the sides.

Emery guided Villa into the Europa Conference League in his first campaign in charge, where they made it to the semi-final stage.

The Villans' Euro campaign was ended by Olympiacos on Thursday, but they are one win from securing a Champions League spot for next term.

Emery's men, who lost 1-0 at Brighton last time out in the league, can get themselves over the line with a game to spare when Liverpool visit Villa Park next up.

"He's done an incredible job," Klopp said. "Emery is one of the best we have in the business, 100 per cent. Wherever he was, he had success. 

"Sometimes clubs were not ready to wait for it, maybe. If you look back probably these clubs would have made different decisions. 

"The job he is doing is absolutely exceptional. We all know how important it is for a club to qualify for the Champions League, how difficult it is."

Liverpool enter the contest third in the Premier League, 11 points better off than Villa, with their title hopes now officially over.

While there may not be a great deal on the line for the Reds on the face of it, this will be Klopp's final away game as Liverpool manager.

The German is departing after next week's home match with Wolves, and Villa skipper John McGinn says he will be missed.

"The league has been very lucky to have Klopp," McGinn said. "He has obviously got an identity and a really strong team. He will be missed.

"I think everyone knows what we think of our own manager. We are very lucky to have him and his staff. They work endlessly to make us better."


PLAYERS TO WATCH

Aston Villa - Ollie Watkins

Watkins has failed to score in back-to-back games in all competitions for Villa, with his blank against Brighton leaving him one short of the 20-goal mark in the Premier League this season.

The last Villa player to reach that mark in a top-flight campaign was Peter Withe in 1980-81.

The omens are certainly good, as only against Brighton (six) - ironically - has Watkins scored more goals in the competition than he has against Liverpool (five).

Liverpool - Mohamed Salah

Salah returned to the Liverpool starting line-up last weekend and both scored and assisted in the 4-2 win over Tottenham.

The Egyptian has now both scored and assisted in four different Premier League games this season - only Chelsea's Cole Palmer (five) has done so more often.

Across his entire Premier League career, Salah has done so 31 times in total, with that a tally only Wayne Rooney (36) and Thierry Henry (32) can better.

MATCH PREDICTION - LIVERPOOL WIN

Villa lost 1-0 to Brighton in their most recent league game, but they have not lost successive Premier League matches since May last year.

Liverpool were 4-2 winners against Tottenham last time out, meanwhile, and have lost just one of their past 26 league games played in May.

This is a fixture the Reds tend to do well in, however, as they have lost just once and won 10 times in their past 12 league games with Villa.

Indeed, Liverpool have won more Premier League away games against Villa than they have any other opponents (16).

Historically speaking, meanwhile, Liverpool have lost only one of their eight final away league games under Klopp, last doing so in 2018.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Aston Villa - 27.1%

Draw - 27.7%

Liverpool - 45.2%

Kylian Mbappe has confirmed that he will leave Paris Saint-Germain at the end of the season.

Mbappe, who joined PSG on a permanent deal from Monaco in 2018 after spending a season on loan, has made 305 appearances for the club, scoring 255 goals, 42 of which came in European competition.

The 25-year-old helped them win Ligue 1 six times, including this season, three Coupe de France titles and two Coupe de la Ligue trophies.

Mbappe, who is out of contract this year, will not be staying at the Parc des Princes at the end of the season, with reports suggesting he could join Real Madrid.

In a message posted on his social media channels, Mbappe said: "I've always said that I would speak with you when the time comes, and so I wanted to announce to you all that it's my last year at Paris Saint-Germain.

"I will not extend, and the adventure will come to an end in a few weeks.

"I will play my last game at the Parc des Princes on Sunday."

"It's a lot of emotions, many years where I had the chance and the great honour to be a member of the biggest French club, one of the best in the world, which allowed me to arrive here, to have my first experience in a club with a lot of pressure, to grow as a player by being alongside some of the best in history, to meet a lot of people and to grow as a man with all the glory and the mistakes I've made.

"I want to thank the teammates, all of the teammates that I had. All the coaches, Unai Emery, Thomas Tuchel, Mauricio Pochettino, Christophe Galtier and Luis Enrique.

"It's hard, it's hard and I never thought it would be this difficult, to announce that to leave my country, France, the Ligue 1, a championship I have always known, but I think I needed this, a new challenge after seven years. 

"It's difficult and, of course, there are some people, I want to thank above all these are the fans. I know I am not the most demonstrative player. I haven't always lived up to the love you all gave me for the seven years, but I never wanted to cheat. I have always wanted to be effective. 

"PSG is a club that never leaves anyone indifferent. We can love it or hate it. I made the choice of loving it and I did it for seven years, with ups and downs, of course, but I do not regret any moment, signing with this prestigious club.

"It's a club that I will keep in memory my entire life. I will tell everybody my whole life, that I had the chance to play here. I won't be a player anymore, but I will continue to watch every game, of course, because it's a club that I will always be interested in, and I will always closely follow up its news.

"It was me with my qualities and defects, but I tried to give the best version of myself during those seven years. But beforehand I want to say thank you because without you all I would not have experienced half of the emotions I felt. And just for that, I am grateful for life. 

Andoni Iraola sees his nomination for the Premier League's Manager of the Season award as something for everyone at Bournemouth to be proud of, vindicating their progress in 2023-24.

Bournemouth welcome Brentford to the Vitality Stadium for their penultimate game of the campaign on Saturday, with a top-half finish still on the cards.

The Cherries have already surpassed their previous record points haul in the top flight, accumulating 48 despite failing to win any of their first nine matches under Iraola – a run which led to suggestions he could lose his job.

However, they have been rewarded for sticking with the Spaniard, who is up against Pep Guardiola, Mikel Arteta, Jurgen Klopp and Unai Emery in the Manager of the Season voting.

"I think it's something for the club. People think that we have done a very good season and it's good to see yourself get this kind of recognition," Iraola said on Friday.

"I think we still have a lot of room to grow and we have to continue improving because, in the end, the Premier League is very demanding.

"I think the other nominees are on another level, I would say. They are the top four teams in the league.

"It's good that a club like us receives this kind of recognition but in the same way it could have gone to Sean Dyche or Gary O'Neil, they are also doing very good jobs."

Brentford boss Thomas Frank has heaped praise on his opposite number, saying: "He's done well this season. Praise to him and everyone around Bournemouth. 

"He had a tricky start and it's just another example that there are a lot of good coaches out there and that football is brutal and unpredictable.

"But the best leaders are there with a calm head and a steady hand – they keep going. They've done well in many ways, definitely."

PLAYERS TO WATCH 

Bournemouth – Dominic Solanke

Solanke has opened the scoring in nine different Premier League games so far this season, more than any other player. 

His goals have also been worth a league-high 15 points for the Cherries this term – can he fire them one step closer to a top-half finish?

Brentford – Ivan Toney 

Toney has failed to score in any of his last 10 Premier League games for Brentford. 

Only in his first 11 Football League appearances for Northampton Town in 2013-14 has he failed to find the net in more consecutive league games for a single team. With time running out to impress England boss Gareth Southgate ahead of Euro 2024, he needs to end his drought.

MATCH PREDICTION – DRAW

Brentford's last two Premier League games have seen them lose 1-0 to Everton and draw 0-0 with Fulham. They have not failed to score in three or more consecutive league games since a run of four in March and April 2019.

The Bees have, however, kept a clean sheet in their last two away league games against Bournemouth, last doing so on three consecutive visits between 1991 and 1994 in the third tier.

The Cherries are winless in their last six league games against Brentford since a 1-0 Championship victory back in August 2014, drawing two and losing four.

With little of substance on the line, it would be no surprise to see this one fizzle out into a draw. 

Bournemouth have only won their final home league game in one of the last four seasons, beating Millwall in the Championship in 2021-22 but losing their other three in that span.

Brentford, meanwhile, have seen four of their last seven Premier League matches finish level, their only defeat in that run coming at Goodison Park two weeks ago.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY 

Bournemouth – 32.6%

Brentford – 39.1%

Draw – 28.3%

John McGinn is quickly turning his focus to the "astronomical achievement" of Champions League qualification after Aston Villa suffered heartbreak in the semi-finals of the Europa Conference League.

Villa were among the favourites to lift Europe's third-tier trophy but a 2-0 defeat at Olympiacos on Thursday consigned Unai Emery's men to a 6-2 aggregate loss over the two-leg tie.

It means Villa end what has largely been viewed as an excellent season without a trophy but they can still finish on a high by securing a top-four finish in the Premier League.

They lead fifth-place Tottenham by seven points with two games left in their domestic season, albeit Spurs do have a game in hand.

McGinn apologised to the travelling support in Piraeus but, speaking to TNT Sports after the game, said there is still an opportunity to finish the season on a high.

"We went into this competition as favourites and we handled that pressure throughout the competition, I think it’s been a huge learning curve for us," he said.

"It's not been a smooth journey, we got to the semi-finals down to the bare bones a bit.

"However, those of us who were out there over the two legs, we lost to who were the better team and I think the scoreline proves it."

"Our instant feeling is absolutely gutted. We all wanted to be back here for the final.

"Olympiacos gave it absolutely everything, played out of their skin in both legs, and overall the scoreline proves they were the better team.

"We'll reflect, there's a lot of things we could have done better, but over the season, of course, we can be proud of the journey.

"Obviously, we need to apologise to the supporters who have travelled here, they've travelled the whole campaign with us.

"We wanted to deliver a trophy to them, we all wanted it as players. We’'e all bitterly disappointed, but we need a big push in the last two games to try and get over the line for the Champions League, which would be an astronomical achievement.

"But here, the overriding feeling is disappointment, frustration and an opportunity missed. Congratulations to Olympiacos and we wish them all the best in the final."

Unai Emery says Thursday's Europa Conference League clash with Olympiacos is Aston Villa's "biggest challenge" of the season.

Villa are 4-2 down after a shock defeat in the first leg of the semi-final tie at Villa Park last week.

While they are pushing for a top-four finish in the Premier League, Emery believes attempting to overturn the deficit in Greece will prove to be Villa's biggest test yet.

"This is the challenge tomorrow, the biggest challenge we’re going to face this year, playing in this semi-final," Emery said.

"I will find the best performances tomorrow and really be competitive.

"Of course, it's going to be very difficult here away because the atmosphere supporting the home team could be more difficult.

"In 90 minutes, we have to be focused with everything tactically, being in control of our emotions, set-pieces as well, everything."

Olympiacos or Villa will face Fiorentina in the final on May 29, after the Serie A club overcame Club Brugge on Wednesday.

Unai Emery accepts Aston Villa can have no complaints over their 1-0 loss to Brighton and Hove Albion in the Premier League.

The Villans fell to a narrow defeat at the Amex Stadium on Sunday as Joao Pedro converted late on after his initial penalty attempt was saved.

Villa looked sluggish throughout yet were just minutes away from claiming a point that would have further boosted their top-four prospects.

John McGinn also had a goal ruled out for a marginal offside, but Emery admits his side were not deserving of a point on their travels.

"We competed but it was not enough," he told BBC Sport. "We weren't strong enough in 90 minutes to deserve anything more than we achieved.

"Now the most important thing is to rest, to rest today, rest tomorrow, after the match.

"We are having an amazing season, brilliant, but of course we are at the last chance and we have to try and give everything."

Villa remain seven points clear of fifth-place Tottenham, albeit having played a game more, after Spurs' 4-2 loss at Liverpool.

Before focus can turn to the Villans' home match with Liverpool in a week's time, they first travel to Olympiacos for their Europa Conference League semi-final second leg.

Emery's men have a major task on their hands if they are to reach the final as they trail 4-2 from last week's first leg at Villa Park.

"We want to put in a good effort on Thursday [against Olympiakos] and on Monday against Liverpool. Now is time to rest," Emery added.

"We had a lot of players injured and they are recovering. The most important thing is to get players back for balance and to be competitive."

Victory for Brighton was much needed after going six without a win in the Premier League, failing to score in four of those matches.

While Roberto De Zerbi was pleased to get back to winning ways, he accepts Brighton were given a helping hand by Villa's quick turnaround in games.

"To be honest, Villa were not themselves, maybe a little tired," he said. "They are playing in the Europa Conference League and they have a lot of injuries.

"I am proud because we played a great game against one of the best teams in the Premier League. Playing against Unai Emery's teams is very tough. 

"We played well, we deserved to win and we could have scored more goals. I think Robin Olsen was the best player for Villa."

Unai Emery says Aston Villa must adapt to the varying challenges of European and domestic football ahead of Sunday's Premier League meeting with an "amazing" Brighton at Amex Stadium.

Villa boss Emery has become renowned as somewhat of a European mastermind, having won three Europa Leagues with Sevilla and another when in charge of Villarreal.

Yet the Spaniard will have been disappointed as Villa slipped to a 4-2 home defeat against Olympiacos in Thursday's Europa Conference League semi-final first leg.

Emery acknowledged his Champions League-chasing Villa must prepare differently for different challenges in Europe as they prepare to return to domestic action against Brighton.

He said: "We want to grow up in Europe, playing Europa League and Champions League. I like it.

"The players have to adapt to that situation playing more matches than normal and then try to take experiences and manage those competitions and try to be successful in both."

European football is on the cards next term at Villa Park, too, with Emery's fourth-placed side seven points clear of Tottenham, who have played a game fewer.

Villa can move one step closer to an unlikely Champions League qualification with victory at Brighton, though Emery knows a tough task awaits against Roberto De Zerbi.

"The respect for Roberto de Zerbi is high," he added. "He is an amazing coach, he was playing very good last year.

"It is amazing how they play."

Brighton, meanwhile, are winless in six straight Premier League games and have been demolished by Bournemouth and Manchester City in recent weeks.

That winless run leaves the Seagulls 12th in the table and Brighton head coach De Zerbi is desperate for a response on Sunday, even if they are out of European contention.

"I spoke about motivation not because we want to go on holiday tomorrow or next week," De Zerbi said. "When the target is not so close it is tough to accept for a team who is used to fighting for the important target.

"This season until the Brentford game, until maybe the Burnley game, we have had the chance to qualify for another year in the Europe League.

"I think after that we lost something of energy and of motivation."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Brighton – Joao Pedro

Brighton have not managed a goal from one of their own players since Danny Welbeck scored after just two minutes in the March 31 defeat against Liverpool at Anfield.

De Zerbi may look to Joao Pedro to end that struggle, with the forward's eight league goals leading the club's scoring charts – though he has not scored since March 2 against Crystal Palace.

Aston Villa – Ollie Watkins

Ollie Watkins has scored six goals in his last four Premier League appearances against Brighton, including a hat-trick in Villa’s 6-1 win earlier this season. It’s the most goals he’s netted against an opponent in the competition.

The England striker has also been involved in eight goals in his last five Premier League away games, scoring six and assisting two. His 10 Premier League away goals overall this season is the most of any English player in the competition.

MATCH PREDICTION – ASTON VILLA WIN

The Opta supercomputer struggled to split these two sides in the pre-match predictions, though Villa are the narrow favourites for this one considering recent head-to-head clashes.

Emery's men won 6-1 in this season’s reverse Premier League fixture against Brighton – they last netted more than six against an opponent in 2020-21 vs Liverpool (8), while their most goals against an opponent in a season is 10 against Wimbledon in 1994-95.

Brighton have also lost their last five Premier League matches against Villa by an aggregate score of 14-3. The Seagulls last suffered six defeats in a row against a side between 2019 and 2022 against Man Utd.

Villa, meanwhile, will be looking to register six consecutive top-flight wins against an opponent for the first time since between 2005 and 2010 against fierce rivals Birmingham City.

The visitors may be confident of doing so given De Zerbi's men have lost their last two league games by an aggregate score of 7-0.

The Seagulls last lost more in a row in the competition in March 2022 (run of six – the third of which was at home to Villa), while they last conceded 3+ goals in three successive league matches in October 2011 as a Championship side.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Brighton win – 35.4%

Aston Villa win – 35.7%

Draw – 28.9%

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