By Anthony Onifade

26th Oct, 2023 | 4:47pm

Unai Emery may have gotten it horribly wrong v AZ Alkmaar as Aston Villa starting XI announced

Aston Villa boss Unai Emery has made four changes to his starting XI for their crucial Europa Conference League clash against AZ Alkmaar and the decision to start Diego Carlos may be costly.

The club confirmed their line-up for Thursday’s crucial encounter at AZ, with Ezri Konsa, Pau Torres, Nicolo Zaniolo and Moussa Diaby dropped for the game.

Carlos, Clement Lenglet, Youri Tielemans and Leon Bailey all come into the line-up against the high-flying Dutch Eredivisie outfit with a win very much needed to boost their qualification hopes in Group E.

The Villans do come into this game in fantastic form which is something that they continued following the recent international break by defeating West Ham United 4-1 at the weekend.

Emery’s men showcased attacking flair with goals from Leon Bailey, Ollie Watkins and a brace by Douglas Luiz, proving that they have attacking quality in all areas.

That victory extended their current unbeaten run to four games in all competitions, and that is something that they will be aiming to keep going as they try to move up the group table in Europe.

After Sunday’s superb result, Emery could well have been tempted to stick to the same line-up for Thursday’s game but instead, he’s gone and made a potential clanger with both Diego Carlos and Lenglet starting in place of Torres and Konsa who have formed a formidable partnership in recent weeks.

Former Sevilla defender Carlos hasn’t endured the best of periods since his move from La Liga last year, plagued by injuries and a lack of starts as a result of his fitness issues at Villa Park.

His last game in a Villa shirt, coming against Wolves (8 October) may well have had Emery worried over his form and future capabilities.

As per SofaScore, the former Sevilla man failed to win a single tackle, was dribbled past twice, failed to win any of his ground or aerial duels, and completed just two of his six long balls in a pretty dire display.

More crucially Lenglet has rarely convinced at Villa Park too, with one of his rare starts coming on the first Europa Conference League match-day against Legia Warsaw in a 3-2 defeat.

While he completed 100% of his ground duels, 93% of his passes and one of his single dribbles, Lenglet failed to win any of his aerial duels which is shocking considering his tall and lanky frame, registered just one tackle all night and failed to register any interception, clearance, blocks [SofaScore] in a rather lacklustre display.

AZ Alkmaar are no easy task for the Villans, after their stunning start to the campaign in Holland winning eight of their nine games so far and Emery may well be in for a catastrophic loss again in Europe because of this critical defensive decision.

Let’s hope Carlos finally proves his worth against the Dutch giants.

In other Aston Villa news, the ball is in Youri Tielemans’ court over his future at the club.