Aston Villa vs Lille: Preview and Prediction

Aston Villa are bidding for European glory in the UEFA Europa Conference League this season as they take on Lille in the quarter-final.

Aston Villa and Lille face off in the first leg of their UEFA Europa Conference League quarter-final on Thursday night. The hosts won their last Europa Conference League tie, thrashing Ajax 4-0 on aggregate in the Round of 16.

After playing out a goalless draw at the Johan Cruyff Arena in the first leg, they ran out 4-0 winners in the return game at Villa Park. Lille, meanwhile, won their Last 16 Conference League tie, beating Sturm Graz 4-1 on aggregate.

With Unai Emery in charge, a man who has lifted four European trophies, Aston Villa have been fancied to go the whole hog. However, fighting on two fronts in the final few months of the season has taken a toll on Emery’s squad.

Their top-four Premier League push has suffered a major blow in the last couple of games, with a 4-1 defeat at Manchester City followed by a 3-3 draw at home to out-of-form Brentford. That has seen them drop below Tottenham into fifth. So, Emery will be looking for a response back on the European stage when Lille come to town.

But this could be a trickier game than many anticipate, with the French side on a decent run. Lille are also fifth in the Ligue 1 table and will take confidence from a morale-boosting 3-1 win over Marseille on Friday night.

Paulo Fonseca’s troops are riding on a seven-game unbeaten streak, and they have prepped for the trip to England by claiming back-to-back victories over Lens and Marseille. Lille also topped their Conference League group and held PSG to a 1-1 draw earlier in the season, so they are well capable of rising to the big occasion.

Team News & Tactics

Aston Villa

Aston Villa have injuries piling up, and Unai Emery’s side may be feeling the effects of playing so much football this season. The Villans can now call upon the services of playmaker Nicolo Zaniolo on Thursday after the Italian international missed last month’s victory over Ajax through suspension.

However, the hosts are still without long-term absentees Tyrone Mings, Boubacar Kamara, and Emiliano Buendia, while Matty Cash and Jacob Ramsey are also sidelined. Emi Martinez returned to the starting lineup to face Brentford last weekend after missing the previous week’s defeat at Manchester City due to sickness.

He could play behind a defence made up of Ezri Konsa, Diego Carlos, Pau Torres, and Alex Moreno. Lucas Digne has started Villa’s last two games and could be rotated ahead of facing Arsenal.

Although Emery is set to rotate his side somewhat, Douglas Luiz is set to start both legs against Lille, as he is suspended for upcoming Premier League games against Arsenal and Bournemouth after collecting a 10th top-flight booking on Saturday.

Up front, top scorer Ollie Watkins has been sidelined by a hamstring problem of late but should still feature in the final third, with Jhon Duran waiting on the wings as cover.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Martinez; Konsa, Carlos, Torres, Moreno; Bailey, Luiz, McGinn, Rogers; Diaby, Watkins

LOSC Lille

Andrej Ilic (foot), Tiago Morais (muscular), and veteran defender Samuel Umtiti (knee) are all absent due to injury. Angel Gomes was anticipated to miss out on the trip to Birmingham. But the England Under-21 international recovered from a hamstring injury ahead of schedule and could feature here, although he’s still unlikely to start.

Therefore, head coach Paulo Fonseca could go with Remy Cabella to slot in an advanced attacking role. Another former Newcastle United flop, Nabil Bentaleb, will partner Andre in the engine room.

Lille striker Jonathan David has been on fire in front of goal this season, with the Canada international netting 18 goals so far. He found the net in Lille’s 3-1 victory over Marseille last time out and has scored ten in his last nine games. He will fancy his chances against a defence that has looked leaky of late.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Chevalier; Santos, Diakite, Yoro, Ismaily; Andre, Bentaleb; Zhegrova, Cabella, Haraldsson; David

Key Stats

  • There have been over 2.5 goals in nine of Lille’s last 12 in all competitions.
  • Jonathan David has scored ten goals in his last nine appearances.
  • Aston Villa are unbeaten in their last seven UEFA Europa Conference League matches (W5 D2).
  • Lille, meanwhile, are unbeaten in their previous ten European matches this season (W6 D4).
  • Aston Villa have won their previous five European home games this season.
  • Aston Villa have lost only two of their last 13 European home games (W8 D3).

Player to Watch

Ollie Watkins

Embed from Getty Images

It is tough to overlook Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins to add to his already impressive season tally further against Lille on Thursday. The 28-year-old is enjoying a terrific campaign, having scored 24 goals and provided ten assists in 43 appearances in all competitions. He underlined his worth to Villa at the weekend with a double in that draw with Brentford and has struck three in six Europa Conference League matches this season.


Aston Villa 2-2 LOSC Lille

Aston Villa played their part in one of the most entertaining Premier League games of the season on Saturday. But Unai Emery will not be pleased after his team blew a two-goal lead to draw with Brentford.

This allowed Tottenham to leapfrog them in the race for the top four, and they could find their downturn in form continuing when they host Lille on Thursday. With Aston Villa conceding seven goals in their last two games, it bodes well for action at both ends in this European clash. The Hard Tackle predicts a thrilling 2-2 draw between the two sides this midweek.

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