Why Aston Villa can qualify for Champions League – from Emery's nous to Emi Martinez's big game antics and new Uefa rule | The Sun
ENGLAND could have five representatives in the Champions' League next season – yet no one appears to believe Aston Villa could be one of them.
Current holders Manchester City's impressive start to the season has already marked Pep Guardiola's men out as red hot favourites to win a fourth successive title.
Behind them, Arsenal look to be the main challengers again as they continue to progress under Mikel Arteta.
Jurgen Klopp has managed to help Liverpool rediscover their mojo and there are signs that if City do slip up and take their eye off the ball, the Anfield club could realistically mount a title challenge.
A few years ago the idea of Brighton playing in Europe would have seemed far-fetched. But now Roberto De Zerbi's team are EVERYONE'S favourite 'other team,' and are being widely tipped for a top four finish.
A rejuvenated Spurs will fancy their chances of grabbing a Champions' League place too under Ange Postecoglou and they will look to make a statement in the North London derby this weekend.
Meanwhile, Newcastle have proved they can put together a run and will be in no mood to relinquish the fourth place they fought so hard to achieve last season under Eddie Howe.
And we haven't even mentioned Manchester United yet!
Erik ten Hag led the Red Devils to a respectable third place finish last season and two cup finals – beating Newcastle United to win the Carabao Cup.
Ten Hag doesn't have his problems to seek right now as his squad continues to crumble around him but once Raphael Verane returns from injury, United fans will hope their team starts to climb the table again.
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However, Unai Emery's Villa continue to go under the radar and that could make them a major threat to the rest if they take their eye off the ball.
Here's why our Midlands reporter Graeme Bryce believes Emery's men are good enough to finish in the top five this season – despite facing the distraction of competing in Europe.
Unai Emery is the real deal.
Arsenal may not remember his time at the Emirates with any particular fondness.
But the Spaniard has improved every other club he's ever been at and Villa fans adore their workaholic boss.
He took charge of a shambles last season yet won 15 out of 25 league games as Villa clinched European football on the last day of the season – by beating De Zerbi's Brighton.
Emery has every player in his squad believing they are capable of beating anyone on their day – including in Europe where Emery's record is exceptional.
In the last 16 years Emery has competed in Europe every season, reaching eight quarter-finals in that time, seven semi-finals and five finals.
Remarkably, he has won four Europa Leagues, only failing to beat Chelsea during his unhappy time at Arsenal.
His attention to detail is legendary and he has transformed Villa into a slick passing outfit, capable of beating most opponents on their day.
Emi Martinez was already a Villa favourite when he performed heroics during an impressive debut season following his £20million move from Arsenal in September 2020.
However, the 'keeper took his game to a new level when he helped Argentina capture the World Cup in Qatar last year.
Now widely regarded as one of the top goalkeepers in world football, the 31-year-old was even nominated for this season's Ballon D'Or award.
He rarely makes a blunder and his big saves have had Villa fans singing his praises since he arrived from the Gunners.
Any team with ambitions of qualifying for the Champions' League has to be able to win in front of their own fans.
Emery has transformed Villa's home form with Saturday's stunning three-goal comeback to beat Crystal Palace the latest example of Villa's power on home turf.
Villa have won 10 consecutive home games in all competitions for the first time since a run of 11 from October 1989 to January 1990.
Douglas Luiz is loving life at Villa Park after scoring in four home matches on the spin with his penalty against Palace.
Villa will attempt to match that 33-year record in midweek when they host Everton in the Carabao Cup.
Sean Dyche's men are likely to discover no-one finds it easy to come away from Villa Park with anything other than disappointment these days under Emery.
Aston Villa are in the fortunate position when it comes to billionaire owners.
They don't have just one – they have TWO!
Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens took over the club after they failed to win promotion in the Play-Off final of 2018 against Fulham.
They took Villa from the brink of administration under Dr Tony Xia and ploughed in the necessary cash to solve Villa's financial woes.
The pair are big-time operators who are hugely ambitious and have carried out extensive work on and off the park at Villa Park.
They took Villa into Europe ahead of schedule and won't rest until the Champions' League anthem is being played at Villa Park.
The stats don't lie.
Only Manchester City and Arsenal have collected more points than Villa's 52 in 2023.
Yes, despite Brighton being brilliant under De Zerbi.
And despite Newcastle and Liverpool stuffing Villa this season, overall Villa have the third-best points tally in the Prem this year.
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That makes them too dangerous to write off in my opinion as Emery continues his impressive work at Villa Park.
No one is talking about Villa as potential Champions' League qualifiers and I suspect wily old fox Emery hopes it stays that way until the final weeks of the season!
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