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Match Preview: Aston Villa v Legia Warszawa - Can Unai Emery’s side take control of Group E?

Villa host Polish side, Legia Warszawa, in the penultimate group stage fixture, with both sides heading towards qualification.

Aston Villa FC Training Session And Press Conference - UEFA Europa Conference League 2023/24 Photo by Neville Williams/Aston Villa FC via Getty Images

The Build-Up

Villa will be out for revenge after losing at The Polish Army Stadium, 3-2, in the opening fixture of this years UEFA Europa Conference League campaign.

Emery said that the team struggled to play in such a hostile environment in Warsaw, therefore it is key that the Villa Park crowd make it as hard as possible for Legia to play their usual style.

After beating a threat-less Fulham side at home in the Premier League, Villa are now 13 games unbeaten at Villa Park in the league, highlighting the challenge that Legia face.

Last time out, Emery’s men were able to beat a Tottenham Hotspur side 2-1 away from home, which moved the Villans up to fourth in the table. This was thanks to goals from Pau Torres and, of course, Ollie Watkins.

Villa went in at half-time level with Spurs after a stoppage time header from Pau Torres via a wicked set-piece delivery by Douglas Luiz. It was the first 45 minutes, however, which saw us get dominated by a relentless Tottenham side.

Emery made changes at half-time, with Youri Tielemans and Leon Bailey replacing Moussa Diaby and Matty Cash, with these substitutes making all the difference.

It was the Belgian international, Tielemans, who set up Watkins for his seventh in the league this season. This result shows that we are not messing around when it comes to potential Champions League football next season.

For the visitors, they had to come back from going 2-0 down against Warta Poznan, which meant they walked away with a point thanks to goals from Josue and Ernest Muci. They now sit sixth in the Ekstraklasa.

With both sides sat on nine points in Group E, this is a huge game for both sides if they want to achieve automatic qualification for the Round of 16.

Aston Villa FC Training Session And Press Conference - UEFA Europa Conference League 2023/24
Youri Tielemans proved to be a difference maker against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday - can the Belgian continue his fine form on Thursday?
Photo by Neville Williams/Aston Villa FC via Getty Images

Legia only lead Villa in the group as the standings work on a head-to-head basis first rather than goal difference. This means that because Legia beat Villa in the opening round, they sit above us as we are level on points also.

The team who finishes second in Group E will then have to play a play-off fixture against a team who finished third in their Europa League group. This fixture is played over two legs.

Legia typically play three at the back with a left midfielder and right midfielder almost acting as wing-back’s when defending. The two who play there, Pawel Wszolek on the right and Patryk Kun on the left, have nine goal contributions combined in the league this season, highlighting the attacking threat that they show.

Legia Warsaw v Warta Poznan - PKO Ekstraklasa Photo by Foto Olimpik/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Their normal front three of Ernest Muci (LW), Tomas Pekhart (ST) and Josue (RW) all help to provide goals for the team. They have fifteen goals between them in the league, with Pekhart leading the way with six.

The 15 time champions of Poland have scored 18 of their 23 league goals from open play, meaning that they will probably look to play a counter-attacking style of football when they travel to Villa Park on Thursday.

Team News

There are no new injury concerns for the Villa going into this one.

After impressing against Spurs, Youri Tielemans and Leon Bailey may have booked their place in the starting lineup alongside Jacob Ramsey who could do with getting some minutes in his locker.

Tyrone Mings and Emiliano Buendia remain injured.

With Alex Moreno also back in contention, it could be a chance for Lucas Digne to have some well-deserved rest.

Aston Villa Training and Press Conference
Alex Moreno will be looking to play a part on Thursday evening at Villa Park.
Photo by Neville Williams/Aston Villa FC via Getty Images

Legia Warszawa’s attack should be as normal with Muci and Pekhart both on four goals each in this season’s Conference League (qualifying included).

Legia have Bartosz Kaputska and Filip Rejczyk back in training, however, the Villa fixture will come too soon for the pair.

French centre-back Steve Kapuadi served his one match suspension at the weekend; therefore, he should be fresh enough to slot into the defense.

Likely Lineups

Aston Villa (4-2-2-2)

Martinez; Cash, Carlos, Lenglet, Moreno; Tielemans, Douglas Luiz; McGinn, Bailey; Diaby, Watkins

Legia Warszawa (3-4-3)

Tobiasz; Ribeiro, Jedrzejczyk, Kapuadi; Wszolek, Slisz, Elitim, Kun; Muci, Pekhart, Josue

Score Prediction

Villa at home. Do I need to say more? For the purposes of the article I will. We are out for revenge. Unai knows how they want to play; it is going to be a game in which Villa hold the majority of the ball, and when Legia do have the ball, they will look to attack with pace.

When we played each other in Matchday one, the thing that Legia took advantage of was our high line, however, since then, the players have more confident with defending in that way. Villa will be to strong for Legia Warszawa, that is why I predict a 3-1 win.

Prediction: Aston Villa 3 Legia Warszawa 1