Aston Villa’s final step in European bid will be hardest – Unai Emery

Boss Unai Emery admits Aston Villa’s final step to return to Europe will be their hardest.

Villa host Brighton on Sunday knowing victory would seal a European comeback for the first time since 2010-11.

It would book seventh in the Premier League and a Europa Conference League play-off spot but Emery knows it is a tough test.

“We have to be very ambitious and I am. I’m here trying to push everybody, to demand from everybody to get better playing and to take European places,” he said.

“We have to take each step being strong and being passionate about how to do it. We are in this way. We are progressing very well.

“I’m very, very happy with the players and their commitment, their character and they are responding very well. We are also connecting with our supporters.

“We are in the first step. If we achieve our objective on Sunday, we will be very, very happy.

“It’s the next step because we started by escaping from the bottom (of the table), we got into the top 10 and then we have the objective to be in the European places.

“The most difficult step is to get it, but we have our objective. And then if we don’t, it’s not changing our idea or our mind about how we want to improve.”

Brighton have already qualified for the Europa League, sealing sixth place with Wednesday’s 1-1 draw against Manchester City.

Boss Roberto De Zerbi has impressed since replacing Graham Potter in September and Emery is an admirer.

He said: “Football is changing so quickly. I’m 51 years old, I started coaching at 32, so I’ve had 19 years as a coach and manager.

“Always I am very focussed on how I can improve each day to be today, better than yesterday, to be tomorrow, better than today.

“It’s not only about my work or my experiences or my analysis, it’s about trying to watch other coaches. One of them is Roberto De Zerbi.

“I like coaches who can show us something different tactically, offensively and defensively. In football, you have to be in the fast train because it moves so quickly.”