Moussa Diaby Aston Villa v Olympiacos

Olympiacos vs. Aston Villa Preview

There is work to do for Unai Emery’s Villa to get to the UEFA Europa Conference League Final, but this team has proven on several occasions this season that they are made of sterner stuff, so hope for a comeback is still high.

We are now at the business end of Aston Villa’s 2023/24 season, both in the Premier League and the UEFA Europa Conference League. In the league, Unai Emery’s side is in a strong position to qualify for next season’s UEFA Champions League with a 7 point gap separating them and 5th place Spurs with 2 games to go for the Villans.

Spurs can still catch their West Midlands counterparts, and have the advantage of having a game in hand. However, if Ange Postecoglou’s side drop points in any of their remaining games, Aston Villa’s place in the top four will be officially confirmed.

UEFA Champions League football can also be confirmed for Villa with a win in any of their remaining games, which are at Villa Park against Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool and finally away from home against Oliver Glasner’s Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on the final day of the current season.

Villa will, of course, be comforted by the fact that they will be playing European Football next term no matter what happens, with UEFA Europa League football already secured after a top five finish was confirmed for Villa in the last couple of weeks.

We will now turn our attention to the club’s current European campaign in the 2023/24 UEFA Europa Conference League, in which they have managed to reach the semi-finals against Greek Giants Olympiacos.

The first leg of this tie at Villa Park was extremely competitive, but unfortunately, Villa were on the wrong end of a 4 – 2 scoreline in B6. Ayoub El Kaabi scored his first goal of the night to give his side the lead (16’) before going on to double the away team’s advantage with almost half an hour of the game having elapsed (29’).

Villa did then manage to halve the deficit thanks to a goal from Ollie Watkins in first half stoppage time, raising hopes of a comeback on the night. The comeback was completed in the early stages of the second half when French International forward Moussa Diaby equalised for the hosts from an extremely tight angle to make it 2 – 2.

The home side would have wanted to go on and win the first leg in B6 from here, but they were unfortunately unable to do so. A penalty was given to Olympiacos shortly after the equaliser, which saw Olympiacos striker El Kaabi complete his hat-trick from the spot (56’).

The team from Piraeus led again at 3 – 2, and they added another goal to the scoreline when a deflected shot on goal from Santiago Hezze found the back of the Villa net to make it 4 – 2 and give the Greek side a two goal advantage on the night (67’).

Villa did get the chance to reduce the deficit to just one goal from the penalty spot, but Douglas Luiz was unable to find the back of the net from six yards (84’). It therefore remained 4 – 2 to Olympiacos once the final whistle had blown for the first leg.

Now, in the second leg in Piraeus, Unai Emery’s Aston Villa will have to show character and score at least twice in Greece to have a chance of making the 2023/24 UEFA Europa Conference League Final in Athens on Wednesday 29th May 2024 (20:00 Kick-Off).

Whilst it is a massive challenge, Villa have proven to be made of sterner stuff under their Spanish Head Coach, having bounced back from several defeats in all competitions this season – and there are several examples of this.

The first of these examples came early in the current campaign when, following a 3 – 2 defeat away from home against Polish side Legia Warsaw in the opening European game of the year, Villa were able to bounce back, beating Chelsea 1 – 0 at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League, which was the first game after this defeat in Warsaw.

In the Carabao Cup, Villa were knocked out in the third round after a 2 – 1 defeat against Everton at Villa Park, but the West Midlands outfit were able to bounce back immediately in their next game, and in some style, beating Brighton 6 – 1 in B6.

Another example, is that after being defeated 4 – 0 at home to top four rivals Spurs in early March, Emery’s side responded with a 4 – 0 win against Dutch Heavyweights Ajax in what was the second leg of their UEFA Europa Conference League Round of 16 tie.

Now, the final example of Villa’s ability this season to bounce back from negative results comes in the form of the resilience they showed in the previous round against France’s LOSC Lille in the Quarter Finals. After winning the first leg 2 – 1, Villa were losing on aggregate in the second leg when Lille were winning 2 – 0 on the night.

Thankfully for the Villans, Matty Cash was able to become the hero by scoring late on to make it 2 – 1 on the night, before his team managed to secure a place in the next round after beating their French counterparts 4 – 3 in the penalty shootout.

To get to the final, Aston Villa will have to show this resilience once again, and if any Villa side can come back from a deficit, this team in claret and blue have proven on several occasions that they are capable of doing just that, even when the odds are stacked against them. It will certainly still be all to play for against Olympiacos in Piraeus on Thursday night.

Aston Villa faces Greek Champions at the Karaiskakis Stadium on the evening of 9th May 2024 in what is set to be an 8pm kick-off.

Excitement and anticipation are now building rapidly for the second leg of Aston Villa’s 2023/24 UEFA Europa Conference League Semi-Final tie against Olympiacos. All eyes will be on Piraeus as Villa looks to keep their hopes of winning a first major trophy since 1996, and a first major European trophy since 1982 on Thursday night alive.

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