By Villa News Speaking to Dan Bardell

25th May, 2023 | 5:10pm

Ashley Young to return for Aston Villa showdown v Brighton as Sky Sports journalist shares 'surprised' contract verdict

We’re delighted to welcome Sky Sports and The Athletic’s Dan Bardell as our exclusive Aston Villa columnist each week he’ll be giving his views on the biggest talking points at the club…

Dan Bardell has tipped Unai Emery to start Ashley Young at right-back for the Premier League showdown against Brighton at Villa Park on Sunday (28 May).

The Villa veteran had started nine consecutive Premier League games before the 1-1 draw against Liverpool last weekend, where Matty Cash marked his return from the sidelines with a fine display.

Before his troublesome calf injury, the Polish international had started 10 out of the previous 14 matches under Emery.

Whoever starts in the right-back berth this weekend is likely to have their hands full against Seagulls winger Kauro Mitoma, who has enjoyed a standout season on the south coast, scoring seven goals and providing a further six assists.

Speaking exclusively to Villa News, Bardell waxed lyrical about Young’s “massive” presence under Emery’s and admitted he would be surprised if the 37-year-old wasn’t awarded a new contract at the end of the season.

“I think it will be Young at right-back,” he said.

“I think Emery was giving him a bit of a rest on the weekend at Liverpool and I expect him to come back into the side for the last game of the season.

“It would be the right thing to do because he has been a massive part of the journey that Villa have been on under Emery.

“I expect Young to get a new contract in the summer as well and I’d be surprised if he doesn’t.

“We saw the value of Young last weekend when we took our left-back off, Moreno comes on and gets injured, and suddenly you think, ‘what are we going to do there’.

“But Emery could move Young across to left-back, and having those players who can play multiple positions is so, so helpful.

“One area I don’t see Villa particularly strengthening at in the summer is full-back.”

Emery’s side currently sit 7th in the Premier League heading into the last game of the season, sitting one point above Spurs and two clear of Brentford.

If Villa manage to qualify for the Europa Conference League, it will be their first European exposure since the 2010/11 season under Martin O’Neill.

In other Aston Villa news, one academy graduate has picked up an injury which could derail his pre-season plans.