Express & Star

Aston Villa face injury crisis ahead of Liverpool clash

Unai Emery is praying for a let-up in Villa’s chronic injury crisis with up to nine players potentially missing Monday’s Premier League clash with Liverpool.


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Villa are on the brink of qualifying for next season’s Champions League yet are limping toward the finish of what has been an excellent season, with Emery’s squad stretched to breaking point.

The head coach may have only 11 senior players fit to feature against the Reds as injuries continue to bite hard.

Emi Buendia, Tyrone Mings, Boubacar Kamara and Jacob Ramsey have all been lost for the season, while Youri Tielemans, Nicolo Zaniolo, Alex Moreno and Morgan Rogers were all absent in Thursday’s Europa Conference League semi-final defeat to Olympiacos.

Leon Bailey is the latest concern with the Jamaica international, who has been playing through the pain barrier of a knee problem in recent weeks, limping off as Villa’s European dreams died in Greece.

Bailey will be one of several players assessed when Emery’s squad return to training at Bodymoor Heath today and begin preparation for their final home match of the season.

Villa’s place in the Champions League could be confirmed this afternoon should Tottenham lose at home to Burnley.

Yet a victory for Ange Postecoglou’s men would keep them in with a shout of overhauling Villa, who need three more points to secure fourth spot.

Emery’s men go to in-form Crystal Palace on the final day of the season after Monday’s meeting with the Reds.

The Villa boss said: “Each day is going to be very important because some players have small injuries, some have pain and it’s not certain when or where they can come back.

“Zaniolo is close but until he is feeling comfortable he’s not available to play, hopefully he can progress. Tielemans is close. Moreno is not a big injury.”

Villa’s lack of options gave Emery little choice but to play right-back Matty Cash in an attacking role as his team tried in vain to overhaul a 4-2 first leg deficit in Greece.

Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez sits dejected after Olympiacos' Ayoub El Kaabi scores their side's first goal of the game during the UEFA Europa Conference League semi-final, second leg match at The Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium, Athens. Picture date: Thursday May 9, 2024. PA Photo. See PA story SOCCER Villa. Photo credit should read: Zac Goodwin/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only, no commercial use without prior consent from rights holder.

Ayoub El Kaabi’s goal 10 minutes in gave their Greek hosts further breathing space and though Villa dominated possession, particularly in the first half, they were unable to find the goal which would have given them renewed hope.

El Kaabi grabbed his second of the match and fifth of the tie with 10 minutes remaining to seal an historic night for Olympiacos, who became just the second Greek club to ever reach a major European final.

They will play Fiorentina in the final in Athens on May 29 instead of Villa, who had been favourites to lift the trophy.

Skipper John McGinn said: “Our instant feeling is we are absolutely gutted. We all wanted to be back here (in Greece) for the final.

“Olympiacos gave it absolutely everything, played out of their skin in both legs, and overall the scoreline proves they were the better team. We’ll reflect, there’s a lot of things we could have done better, but over the season, of course, we can be proud of the journey.

“Obviously, we need to apologise to the supporters who have travelled here, they’ve travelled the whole campaign with us.

“We wanted to deliver a trophy to them, we all wanted it as players. We’re all bitterly disappointed, but we need a big push in the last two games to try and get over the line for the Champions League, which would be an astronomical achievement. But here, the overriding feeling is disappointment, frustration and an opportunity missed.”

The scale of Villa’s injury crisis was highlighted by the fact Clement Lenglet was the only outfield player on their bench aged over 21.

Asked whether the shortage of players had finally caught up with them, McGinn replied: “Possibly. Possibly. The manager drills into us that is is a no excuse environment. Listen you want everyone available, you want your best players there. When you are in the trenches, someone you can turn to in order to change the game or do something different.

“Tonight I think the game plan was perfect in the first half. We’ve got to be really proud of how we played. The goal was extremely disappointing. The tie was unfortunately lost in the first leg – we didn’t control the game or manage it well enough, the performance was poor.

“For us going into more European competition next season we need to learn how to manage moments a lot better.

“Of course we wanted to do better this year and get to a European final, but we will do everything we can to get ourselves back into this position and get to a final.”