Aston Villa UEFA Europa Conference League

Aston Villa v Olympiacos Match Preview

Unai Emery’s Villa are set to take part in their first major European Semi-Final since 1982 when they take on Greek Giants Olympiacos in the first leg of this UEFA Europa Conference League tie at Villa Park on Thursday.

European games are amongst the biggest and most important games on a football club’s calendar, and there are not many bigger than a Semi-Final. Unai Emery’s Aston Villa are set to take Olympiacos, Greece’s most successful club, in the first of their two-legged Semi-Final tie in the 2023/24 UEFA Europa Conference League at Villa Park. The first game will be taking place in B6 on Thursday 2nd May 2024 in what will be a 20:00 Kick-Off.

Villa is enjoying a spectacular 2023/24 Premier League campaign that has seen them exceed all expectations, and as of the time of writing, Unai Emery’s team currently finds themselves in 4th place after accumulating no less than 67 points from their 35 matches to date. As of the time of writing, Spurs currently have two games in hand, however, it is Villa with a 7 point lead that are the current front runners to take that final UEFA Champions League qualification spot in fourth place at the moment.

Aston Villa have secured UEFA Europa League at the very least after securing a top five finish last week, and they are now having ambitions of securing a spot in European Football’s Premier Club Competition.

As for Olympiacos, they have had a chaotic season to date, with there being a total of three full time managers in just the 2023/24 season alone. They started this current campaign with Spaniard Diego Martinez, who after initial success was dismissed on 5th December 2023 before being succeeded by former Sheffield Wednesday and Swansea City Head Coach Carlos Carvalhal.

The Portuguese Manager lasted just 65 days and was succeeded briefly by Interim Head Coach Sotiris Sylaidopoulos on 8th February 2024. This was just 3 days before current Olympiacos Boss Jose Luis Mendilibar took over the club’s hot seat on 11th February.

Mendilibar has managed to lead the club from Piraeus to a first major European Semi-Final in the almost 100 year history of Greece’s most successful football club. They have won no less than 47 Greek top flight titles as well as 28 Greek Cups. These are both records.

Olympiacos were last Greek Champions in the 2021/22 season, and last term (2022/23), they came in third place behind rivals Panathinaikos and reigning Champions AEK Athens. So far this season, they are currently in fourth place with 70 points from their 33 matches to date. If they win all of their remaining matches, they will become Champions of Greece for the 48th time.

Their most recent match took place in the Greek top flight, the Super League, at home against Lamia at the Karaiskakis Stadium on Sunday 28th April. It was an emphatic 4 – 1 win that saw Chiquinho (24’), Fran Navarro (27’), Daniel Podence (52’), and Sotiris Alexandropoulos (90+3’) find the back of the net for Thrylos (The Legend). Zoran Tosic scored the only goal for the visiting Lamia side that day midway through the second half (64’).

As for Aston Villa, they drew 2 – 2 with Chelsea in the Premier League at Birmingham’s Villa Park on the evening of Saturday 27th April. This game in the Second City saw the home team take the lead thanks to an own goal from Blues left back Marc Cucurella with less than 5 minutes gone before Morgan Rogers doubled the Villans’ advantage just before the half time break (42’).

Mauricio Pochettino’s Chelsea did pull one back through Noni Madueke midway through the second half (62’), only for England international midfielder Conor Gallagher to equalise, restoring parity at 2 – 2 with less than ten minutes of normal time to go in this game (81’).

To get to this 2023/24 UEFA Europa Conference Semi-Final, both Aston Villa and Olympiacos have faced some top teams from across the continent of Europe.

Starting with the Villans, they were in a group containing the likes of Legia Warsaw (Poland), AZ Alkmaar (Netherlands) and Zrinjski Mostar (Bosnia & Herzegovina). Villa won the group with 13 points from 6 matches before facing Ajax in the Round of 16, where after a 0 – 0 draw in the first leg away in Amsterdam, Emery’s Villans won with an emphatic 4 – 0 scoreline at Villa Park in the second leg to secure a Quarter Final tie with French club LOSC Lille of Ligue 1.

Aston Villa won the first leg 2 – 1 at Villa Park before losing 2 – 1 in France in the second leg, but they were able to thankfully secure a spot in the Semi-Final against Olympiacos by winning 4 – 3 in the subsequent penalty shootout.

As for Olympiacos, they were in a UEFA Europa League group alongside West Ham United, SC Freiburg (Germany), and TSC Backa Toploa (Serbia). They ended up missing out on the top two, finishing third with 7 points – 5 adrift of Freiburg in second place.

This earned the Greek club a place in this season’s UEFA Europa Conference League Play-Off Round, where they were 2 – 0 winners on aggregate against Hungarian outfit Ferencvaros before coming up against Israeli side Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Round of 16. After losing the first leg 4 – 1 at home, Olympiacos were able to complete an incredible comeback in the second leg, winning 6 – 1 in Israel to win 5 – 7 on aggregate.

In the Quarter Final, Jose Luis Mendilibar’s Olympiacos came up against Turkish Heavyweights Fenerbahce, winning 3 – 2 in the first leg at home in Piraeus. Then, in the second leg, they lost 1 – 0 after extra time, but they managed to win 3 – 2 on penalties with their goalkeeper making 3 saves in what was a very tense penalty shootout.

Excitement and anticipation are now building rapidly for Aston Villa’s 2023/24 UEFA Europa Conference League Semi-Final tie against Olympiacos, with the first leg of this crucial and historic game will be taking place at Villa Park on Thursday 2nd May 2024 in what is set to be a 20:00 Kick-Off.

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