Express & Star

Leon Bailey eyes 'crucial moment' in Aston Villa's Champions League bid

Leon Bailey believes now is when Villa must be at their best with their challenge for Champions League football having entered a “crucial moment”.

Last updated

Saturday’s 4-2 win over Nottingham Forest saw Villa open up a five-point cushion inside the top four but winger Bailey claims Unai Emery’s team are still looking at the three teams above them in the table, as well as those below.

They next visit Luton this weekend, before hosting fifth-placed Tottenham in a pivotal clash on March 10.

When asked if he was starting to tick-off the matches, with 12 left to play, Bailey replied: “Definitely. Now is the crucial moment and the time when you really have to be at your best.

“You have to try and not give up any easy points. We have it in the back of our heads because the teams are right behind us and there are teams we can catch as well.

“We have to take it one step at a time and always keep in mind it is the crucial time now.

“There is no point of always looking back (in the table). Sometimes you have to but for us it is focusing on ourselves to see where we can reach in the next three or four games from now. That is the focus.”

Emery has consistently sought to play down Villa’s Champions League chances but Bailey made no secret of his burning top four ambition. Villa are now eight points clear of sixth-placed Manchester United after the latter were beaten at home by Fulham.

The win over Forest was their first at home in 2024 and Bailey played a major role, setting up Ollie Watkins’ fourth-minute opener and then scoring Villa’s fourth after Douglas Luiz had netted twice.

Bailey, who later revealed he had been suffering with a cold, has now scored eight Premier League goals this season but stopped short of describing his current form as the best of his career.

“I wouldn’t say it is because I have had more goal and assist contributions when I was in the Bundesliga,” he said.

“But I am trying to make this one of the best seasons of my career. You always want to get better and that is the focus right now, as well as trying to be there for the team, to help the team as much as possible, scoring goals and giving assists. Most importantly, we want to reach our target for the end of the season. We want to be in the Champions League and that is a goal for me as well.”