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Unai Emery: Aston Villa will continue to play 'basketball'

Unai Emery says Villa have no plans to change their set piece approach as the row over their “basketball” tactics rumbled on in France on Wednesday night.

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Lille boss Paulo Fonseca doubled down on his criticism of Villa’s “blocking” having claimed both of their goals in last week’s Europa Conference League quarter-final first leg should have been ruled out for fouls.

But Emery paid little attention when his opposite number’s words were put to him, instead praising the work of set piece coach Austin MacPhee.

Villa have one of the best records in Europe from attacking set pieces and Emery, speaking ahead of Thursday’s second leg, said: “They are 100 per cent important. In my career I have been very successful. I have worked a lot on them in my career. I have worked with a specialist in Austin. We are sharing my experiences with him.

“I have the responsibility, it is mine, and I help him with set-pieces too. Set-pieces are very important in the Premier League and in Europe.

“Three goals last week were through set-pieces and tomorrow we will have to defend perfectly.

“They have very good players as well, skill and organisation to do it. We must use our power. We have to be ready to play everything.”

Earlier in the day, Fonseca explained how he had consulted an international French referee over some of the tactics now employed.

He also expressed hope Thursday’s Slovakian referee, Ivan Kruzliak, would be paying close attention.

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Fonseca said: “I wanted to understand what is and isn’t allowed now. He explained very clear that a block is a block, it is not a foul unless the player moves.

“I know it’s difficult for referees to see it all, but now we have VAR. I continue to try to understand what is allowed and what is now allowed.

“What I’m seeing is not blocks - it is fouls. I want to understand which game we can play. I think the laws keep changing. I hope that if it happens, the referee will pay attention to it.”

While the head coaches clearly have differing views on corners, both were complimentary of each other’s teams ahead of a second leg which is tantalisingly poised thanks to Bafode Diakite’s late goal, which saw Lille returned to France with a 2-1 defeat after goals from Ollie Watkins and John McGinn appeared to have put Villa in command of the tie.

While the 2,600 travelling supporters can take heart in Emery’s own spectacular record in Europe, which has seen him victorious in his last seven quarter-final appearances, the Villa boss knows it will need a good performance from his time if he is to celebrate eight in a row.

“Lille showed their capacity and power as well,” said Emery. “They showed us that they are very motivated for this competition.

“My message is always that we have to be focused and very demanding if we want to get something here.

“Now is the moment to show our capacity as well, playing against a team like Lille.

“The result at home was not enough. Tomorrow we have to enjoy a massive day, a massive match. We are aware of the difficulties we will face tomorrow but we are ready to play.

“Through this competition we can get a title. Every match is difficult and we have to take experiences on the way.

“Winning on Sunday against Arsenal is very good for the Premier League. Now, our focus is tomorrow, trying to be competitive. It is a very difficult opponent.”

Villa will be without Alex Moreno after the left-back became their latest player to be struck down by injury. He is expected to miss around a fortnight with a calf strain.