Now the reality of Europe begins to set in: Between Saturday’s late comeback win against Palace and a visit to Stamford Bridge and struggling Chelsea Sunday, Villa are in Warsaw as the group stage of the Conference League kicks off.
Not since the days of Martin O’Neill have Villa been in Europe, and tonight that indignity comes to an end as Villa travel to Easter Road for the first Conference League playoff leg against Hibernian.
So here we are, start of a new season, and this one’s full of hopes and expectations. Me, I’m cautiously optimistic. Which is probably what I’ll have put on my gravestone. As Emi Buendia’s injury illustrates, football can be cruel no matter how well you look to be set up. But. Emi’s only one player and Emery’s reaction has been excellent. Villa were never going to live or die based solely on Buendia.
Big games are all about mentality and belief. Liverpool may well view the match as a valedictory lap on their way to an inevitable Champions League spot. But if Villa internalize the positive elements the game holds for them, they can turn it into just another match, rather than a celebration. And that’s how you get a result.
No real changes today, but welcome faces await on the bench. A result gives Villa a top-10 finish for the first time in over a decade. A win, and Europe remains distinctly possible. It’s all to play for, as they say.