Preview: Aston Villa vs. Brighton & Hove Albion

Preview: Aston Villa vs. Brighton & Hove Albion

Two of the Premier League’s overachievers in the 2022-23 season meet in the West Midlands for Sunday’s final-day showdown as Aston Villa play host to Brighton & Hove Albion.

The Lions are in the driving seat for Europa Conference League football with one game to go, while Roberto De Zerbi’s side have assured themselves of a place in the 2023-24 Europa League.

Serial Europa League winner Unai Emery may not get the chance to flaunt his excellence in the continent’s second-tier competition next year, but the former Arsenal and Villarreal boss is on the cusp of leading Aston Villa to the unlikeliest of seventh-placed finishes.

Emery’s time at the Emirates may be best consigned to the history books, but the Spaniard is a strong contender for the Manager of the Year prize after overseeing a spectacular rise from the ashes for the Lions, who came oh so close to leaving Anfield with a maximum last weekend.

After watching his teammate sent a penalty wide, Jacob Ramsey spared Ollie Watkins’s blushes with a fine finish from a tight angle to open the scoring, but departing Liverpool striker Roberto Firmino signed off on Merseyside with a late leveller to force a share of the spoils.

Despite now boasting just one win from their last four games, Villa are sitting pretty in seventh place in the table – one point clear of Tottenham Hotspur and two better off than Brentford – and they will qualify for the 2023-24 Europa Conference League with all three points in front of the home faithful.

Amid a spate of continuous shortcomings on the road, home is where the heart is for Emery’s side; the Lions have won each of their last six contests at Villa Park – only conceding to a Harry Kane penalty – but while they will be forced to wait to book their flights and hotels across Europe, Brighton’s itinerary is already being filled in.

Preview: Aston Villa vs. Brighton – prediction, team news, lineups

A goal fit for European competition flew into the back of Stefan Ortega’s net on Wednesday evening, as Roberto De Zerbi’s soaring Seagulls halted the Manchester City title parade to spark their own celebrations in a hard-earned 1-1 draw with the champions.

Pep Guardiola’s rotated side broke the deadlock in the first half through Phil Foden, but a Julio Enciso thunderbolt restored parity for Brighton and guaranteed the South-coast side a spot in the Europa League next term, just reward for the magnificent feats of their playing and non-playing staff.

Whether sixth-placed Brighton can hang onto the likes of Alexis Mac Allister and Moises Caicedo for their continental adventures remains to be seen, but Seagulls fans can be sure that any high-profile departures will be adequately replaced with the money that comes in, and keeping hold of the revered De Zerbi amid interest from Tottenham Hotspur would be no mean feat either.

Inconsistency has been the theme for Brighton away from home, though, as they have followed a sequence of winning one then losing one on their travels in their last six games – going down 4-1 to Newcastle United only a few days after humbling Arsenal 3-0 – but only Brentford have prevented De Zerbi’s men from scoring on the road this term.

Furthermore, Brighton have only beaten Villa once in their seven Premier League meetings – losing each of their last three to the Lions – and such a pattern continuing in the West Midlands would see the Seagulls welcome their hosts into the exclusive European club.

Aston Villa Premier League form:

Brighton & Hove Albion Premier League form:

We say: Aston Villa 2-1 Brighton & Hove Albion
While Brighton should not be in any charitable mood towards Villa, the Seagulls will be battling jellied legs from midweek and may take their foot off the gas with Europa League qualification in the bag.

De Zerbi’s side are far from predictable on the road as well, but Villa have been near-flawless at home over the past several weeks, and we have faith in Emery’s side to come up trumps and mark a phenomenal ascent up the table with Europa Conference League qualification.

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