Express & Star

Unai Emery issues Aston Villa rallying cry ahead of 'special' match

Unai Emery has urged Villa supporters to bring the noise for Sunday’s top four “six-pointer” against Manchester United.

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The boss has told fans their team needs them more than ever as they look to maintain their challenge for Champions League football.

Villa sit fourth in the table, eight points ahead of United but Emery sees the Red Devils as a serious threat during the run-in and made no attempt to play down the importance of their visit.

He said: “It is going to be a difficult match because they need to get points against us.

“They are facing us trying to get to us in the table, being closer to us.

“We are thinking of course there are 38 matches (in the season) but this match is for six points.

“This is a special, key match. We want to create a great atmosphere with our supporters.”

United were the visitors for Emery’s first match in charge of Villa in November 2022 and the 3-1 victory was their first at home over the Red Devils in 27 years.

But Villa have been beaten in their next two league meetings with Erik ten Hag’s side, including December’s 3-2 defeat at Old Trafford in which they let slip a two-goal advantage.

Their form since has been patchy and - most significantly - they have lost their last two home matches with Wednesday’s 3-1 FA Cup exit to Chelsea a low point in what has largely been an excellent season.

Emery believes his players are eager to respond, with Villa boasting the impressive record of having followed up every defeat this season with a victory.

“I am confident,” he said. “We need to believe in our way and how we face the Premier League each match.

“Being consistent - sometimes we are not getting good performances - but overall we are. For Sunday, I am optimistic.

“We are in front of them and they were and they are contenders more than us to get the top five.

“The reality is that we are being consistent. Even if we lose we will be in front of them, but they are feeling stronger now, confident and good.

“They got a good result last time and my message is to try and get our good performance individually and collectively.

“We will need our fans on Sunday, playing one game but it is special. When I arrived here my first game was against Manchester United and I remember how difficult it was, the expectation of the match.

“Sunday is the same. I am now trying to understand the match we are going to play on Sunday.”

Left-back Lucas Digne is available for the first time since suffering a hamstring injury in the defeat at Old Trafford, while Pau Torres could start having been an unused substitute in the FA Cup.

Ezri Konsa (knee) and Jhon Duran (hamstring) remain out.