Preview: Aston Villa vs. Hibernian

Preview: Aston Villa vs. Hibernian

With their Europa Conference League playoff tie all but decided following last week’s first leg, Aston Villa and Hibernian meet at Villa Park on Thursday evening.

After the Villans mauled their hosts in Edinburgh to put one foot in the group stage, they are now tasked with completing the formalities against opponents looking for a new manager.

Faced with an all-British contest to mark their return to European competition after 13 years away, Aston Villa made short work of their first assignment last Wednesday, as captain John McGinn led the Lions to success against his former club.

Ollie Watkins scored the first two goals of a hat-trick during a dominant first-half display from the visitors at Easter Road, and Douglas Luiz later slotted home Villa’s fifth goal of the game from the penalty spot to effectively put them into this week’s group stage draw with 90 minutes of the tie still remaining.

Clearly, Unai Emery’s men have bounced back from a disappointing first-day defeat to Newcastle United in the Premier League, as in addition to taking Everton apart and then hammering Hibs they went on to beat Burnley 3-1 at Turf Moor on Sunday.

Bringing their tally to 12 goals in just three games, Villa surged into a two-goal lead courtesy of inspired wing-back Matty Cash, who bagged himself a brace, and club-record signing Moussa Diaby sealed the deal with a cool finish just after the hour mark.

Emery – a confirmed specialist in continental competition – now aims to build on the momentum gained since his arrival in Birmingham late last year, and help his increasingly impressive squad to emulate West Ham United’s Conference League feats of last term.

Having won each of their final seven home fixtures of 2022-23 to pip Tottenham to seventh place – and their first home fixture of the new campaign saw them defeat Everton with some ease – Villa are now expected to extend their winning margin on Thursday.

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

While Emery’s golden period at Villa Park continues, his opposite number last week has since paid the price for his side’s humbling first-leg defeat – and another concerning result at the weekend.

Lee Johnson was shown the door by the Hibernian hierarchy after a home loss to Livingston followed their five-goal thumping by Villa: league defeats to St Mirren and Motherwell and an embarrassing Conference League loss at Andorran minnows Inter d’Escaldes had already raised doubts.

Although scrapping out a second-leg draw may have proved enough to see Johnson’s side through against FC Luzern in the latter competition’s third qualifying round, that spirited display could not hide Hibs’ shortcomings.

Having finished a creditable fifth last term, the Leith club have started slowly this season – with Saturday’s 3-2 reverse to Livingston leaving them rock-bottom of the early Scottish Premiership standings.

A total of just three goals in three league games for the Hibees highlights how much they miss Kevin Nisbet, now at Millwall, while forwards such as Adam Le Fondre, Christian Doidge and Dylan Vente have yet to step up to the mark.

Aston Villa Europa Conference League form:

Aston Villa form (all competitions):

Hibernian Europa Conference League form:

Hibernian form (all competitions):

We say: Aston Villa 2-0 Hibernian (Aston Villa win 7-0 on aggregate)
Able to play out the second leg in second gear, Aston Villa should serenely cruise through to the group stage by beating Hibernian again. Managerless Hibs are in disarray at the moment, and they will only have damage limitation in mind when they travel south to Birmingham.

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