Europa Conference and Premier League finale - Can Villa get the job done?

It has been a difficult couple of weeks for Villa as the injury list continues to grow and the effects of a long league and European campaign are truly kicking in. So with the Conference League and Premier League concluding soon, what more do Villa have to give?
GLYN KIRK/GettyImages

The defeat to Brighton on Sunday was hard core evidence of this fatigue and it is clear that this paper-thin squad has little left to give in what has been a truly wonderful season for Villa. A late Joao Pedro goal was enough to hand a 1-0 defeat to Unai Emery's men and it was a defeat that neither manager, players or fans could complain about.

Villa could only muster together a measly two shots on goal during the 90 minutes and the performance was lacklustre at best. The players looked shattered and the game and Villa's luck with injuries this season was summed up when Morgan Rogers limped off with an injury early in the first half.

Throughout the season it has been the case that players will face spells on the sideline, and once they are back in the team having recovered, another key player would then get injured too. It has been a rare sight to see Villa have the capability of playing their strongest side this season and the injury list is now taking its toll.

Julio Enciso, Diego Carlos
Brighton & Hove Albion v Aston Villa - Premier League / Mike Hewitt/GettyImages

Villa were forced to bring Matty Cash into the game at Roger's unfortunate expense and he was put into midfield, out of position. Late on in the game, Villa could only turn to Calum Chambers (Villa's sixth choice centre-back) and Alex Moreno (who has been injured for the majority of the season) to try and change the game. Options are massively limited. When Brighton manager Roberto De Zerbi faced the media after the game, he said:

"We played a great game against one of the best teams in the league. To be honest, Villa weren't the Villa they usually are. I thought they were tired. They have a lot of injuries"

Roberto De Zerbi

Villa's injury crisis, unlike other teams in the league, hasn't been a barrier this season and it is a miracle that Emery has guided this squad to fourth place in the league. Compared with the likes of Newcastle, who too have had a plethora of injury problems, who have had a major dip in performance this year compared to the previous campaign.

Chelsea and Manchester United managers Pochettino and Ten Hag, respectively, have been keen to make it clear to the media on a regular basis that injuries have played a big part in their poor performances. Unai Emery, in contrast, has not used this as an excuse and instead improved the players he has had available and kept Villa in the top four. Villa's injury problems are clear. Below is a list of players to have suffered from injuries this season and how many games they have missed.


Number of games missed

Emi Buendia


Tyrone Mings


Jacob Ramsey


Boubacar Kamara


Alex Moreno


John Duran


Nicolo Zaniolo


Your Tielemans


Diego Carlos


Pau Torres


The likes of Emi Martinez, Ollie Watkins, Ezri Konsa and Matty Cash have also missed up to half a dozen games. So with the squad continuing to struggle with fitness, do Villa have anything left to give?

Thursday night will see Villa travel to Greece to attempt to overturn a two-goal deficit in the Europa Conference League semi-final. With the news that Emi Martinez will be fit to return to the side fans have had a surge in confidence that the team can turn it around. Despite the fatigue through the squad, Unai Emery has encouraged the fans to remain positive and cheer on the players as much as they can in the final few games.

Leon Bailey
Aston Villa v Olympiacos FC: Semi-final First Leg - UEFA Europa Conference League 2023/24 / Neville Williams/GettyImages

This Villa side are certainly capable of turning the tie around on Thursday and should they score an early goal then they will feel the momentum swing and hope to grab that opportunity.

Unai Emery is unlikely to change too much in terms of the team or the system they set up with, mainly due to the lack of options he has. Much of the game will also depend on Olympiacos' approach. Should they play with the attacking intent as they did at Villa Park then Villa will know there are goals in the game for them.

Villa showed that they could score goals at the other end and they will rely on Martinez's presence at the back to improve their chances of limiting the home sides chances.

Once Thursday concludes and we know Villa's European fate, attention will turn back to the league as Villa face Liverpool on Monday evening before a final day trip to Selhurst Park. With both Liverpool and Crystal Palace hitting some good form it will be difficult for Villa to pick up any more points.

However, with Spurs having to win all three of their games to pip Villa to fourth, the boys in claret and blue will remain confident of clinging onto that Champions League spot. One thing is for sure, the players will continue to work as hard as they can and meet Emery's high demands, as they have done all season. My predictions are below. Continue to enjoy the ride, Villa fans!

Olympiacos 1-3 Villa (Villa to win on penalties) (And go on to win the competition, of course!)

Villa 1-2 Liverpool

Crystal Palace 3-2 Villa

Villa to finish fourth on 67 points, Tottenham to finish fifth on 66 points.