By Villa News Speaking to Dan Bardell

9th Sep, 2023 | 7:10pm

Dan Bardell: Unai Emery to avoid Aston Villa squad rotation in 'winnable' Europa Conference League

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

Unai Emery may be reluctant to make wholesale changes to his Aston Villa starting XI in their Europa Conference League group-stage fixtures, according to Dan Bardell.

Villa fans learned who they will face in the UECL group stages (1 September) after their 13-year absence from European competition, with AZ Alkmaar, Legia Warszawa and HŠK Zrinjski Mostar the only sides standing in their way of the knock-out rounds.

Emery himself is a “master tactician” of European football, having reached five Europa League finals and winning four in total. With the Spaniard at the helm and the influx of top-quality talent into the side over the summer, the Villa Park faithful will have high expectations in this tournament.

Many have tipped Villa to waltz through the group by playing a significantly depleted side to the starting XI that starts in the Premier League, but Bardell has suggested that Emery may not rotate the side as much as many predicted, with the competition being “winnable” for the Villans.

Speaking exclusively to Villa News, Bardell said: “I think Villa fans are just grateful to be back in Europe again, they don’t care who they play!

“It’s the nature of the Conference League, in the group stages you do play teams of this nature, but there will be no easy games.

“Villa will still have to dispatch the teams. Villa did a very professional job against Hibernian over two legs, Emery took it very seriously. That tells me that perhaps in the group stage games, we won’t see as much rotation as perhaps we would have thought.

“It’s just great to have European football back at Villa Park. It ramps up when it gets to the knock-out stage. You get the teams that have finished third in the Europa League groups and the level of opposition increases. That’s when it gets really exciting.

“But Villa have got to negotiate the group first, and I would expect them to. It’s a winnable competition for Villa and they’ve got the master tactician in Emery.”

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