Aston Villa transcript: Unai Emery on European semi-final, Martinez injury, Olsen and big challenge

Unai Emery held his press conference earlier this afternoon
Unai Emery held his press conference earlier this afternoon -Credit:Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images


Unai Emery sat down with the media ahead of Aston Villa's Europa Conference League semi-final first leg against Olympiacos at Villa Park.

His side have won all of their home games in Europe this season and will be hoping to take an advantage with them to Greece for next week's second leg. Here's every word Emery said in his pre-match press conference...

How important would winning the UECL be for Villa?

"You know because always I speaking about it in Europe. My first objective to get in Europe with Villa. Last year we did a very big effort to achieve the Europa Conference League. We are now enjoying it and testing it, how difficult Europe is. Even in the Europa Conference League and when a team’s level is less than us.

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"We lost in Warsaw and were then close to drawing with Zrinjski here at Villa Park. We also drew in Zrinjski. Against Ajax, we played very well at home, but the first leg in Amsterdam we struggled and we drew. In Lille, it was similar.

"Of course, this is Europe. My experience is that this is very difficult. The level is different, but all the teams are very motivated. We are the only team left in Europe from England and our league is the toughest in Europe. We have to be 100 per cent prepared and to play in Europe is always a difficult challenge too.

"Our first experiences with our players in Europe, I feel that we are building a good connection and we are enjoying it too. Tomorrow, the semi-final is again, for us, a very exciting moment."

You have a great record in knockout football...

"I don’t want to remember my past in Europe. Of course, I know it is successful, but I want to focus on each moment because the past is important for my experiences, but not for the future.

"It is about creating and building a future. It is only practising with the players with the club I am at. It is creating a new way and trying to enjoy a new way. Of course, I know football is only to win.

"I am here because I was more successful than less. Now, with the players we have the club as well, I feel that we are wishing and are willing to play focusing 100 per cent because we appreciate a lot Europe."

How difficult is it to balance the Premier League and Europe?

"I was very convincing with my response before. If we are refusing one competition, I don’t understand how we can do it. The most successful teams in the world - that is my reference as a coach.

"The winning coaches in Spain, England France, Liverpool, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester City, they are my guide for myself when I am trying to play in different competitions. Now, we are very excited with the Conference League and we are very motivated with the Premier League.

"It does not change my first message when we started the season. The most important thing is the Premier League and then we can add more. In case at the end of the season we are contenders like we are now, then of course the importance changes a little bit. Still, the first objective is the Premier League, but we are not refusing the Europa Conference League."

Have you reflected on what an amazing season it has been so far?

"It depends. Being positive at the start of the season like we are being now. Maybe it’s the best way we were thinking to do, but when you are being consistent and getting better, it is not a surprise. The players have responded very well, but to keep it for a long time is very difficult. It is the end of the season and we are now clearly focusing on being a contender on our objectives. My idea is to keep going after it."

What is the team news?

"Emi is out. Alex Moreno is close to coming back. Zaniolo could be in the squad because he is feeling better. Tielemans is not available for tomorrow, but he is feeling good. The other players are available."

You've been struggling for clean sheets recently...

"Clean sheets are the first step to avoid losing matches. If you’re not keeping a clean sheet and you’re winning I’m happy. To be strong and get comfortable defensively is keeping clean sheets. We’re trying to avoid conceding but we’re being consistent in scoring goals and my demand as a coach is to get better defensively, overall we have to accept we’re being consistent.

"Martinez is very competitive and very important and helped us a lot. But when one issues like that and a small injury as well we have to help and support and push another player in the squad. Robin Olsen very competitive every day in training when he played he helped the team and the team believes in him and trusts in his performances. On Saturday he played 45 minutes and he saved us. He’s a humble man and hopefully he can help us."

Will Martinez be okay for the weekend?

"We are focusing on tomorrow, he’s feeling better but I don’t know for Sunday."

Is this a chance for Olsen to show what he's capable of?

"We are always working with three goalkeepers. We got him with the idea of developing with us. Olsen has been consistent and we needed him for different reasons, he is always ready to play at to help us. I remember against Tottenham when he played and we won, this is the argument we have with Robin he’s always for us very important to have the opportunity to play in case it’s not Emiliano because he’s a very good professional and man and everyone respects him.

"Robin is very respectful of the situation and he wants to help us here with the moment we can give him to play. To accept and be ready to play and to help us when we need, that’s what we need for someone behind Emi. Need to know how we are playing and be able to compete and to get to the best level."

How difficult will it be without Martinez?

"That’s true but we have other players ready to lead the team. I’m pushing Konsa and McGinn to lead in different moments, I like to try to explain in the dressing room in front of everyone, they are doing that. Even Leon Bailey likes to speak, Ollie Watkins usually they are one step ahead trying to share our thoughts in front of other players."

Are you ahead of schedule?

"To increase to get more and more having good moments. To be in Europe is one step ahead than last year we’re still in Europe for next year and one step ahead we will be in Europa league minimum. The level is increasing, changing in each competition.

"When you get to the final the level is big level and even before we played against Ajax and Lille and Olympiacos those teams have big experiences in Europe. They’re usually playing in the Europa League and they have a lot of players in the national team. We respect them and Europe is really amazing to be in."

How much will the Lille experience help your players?

"To play at home and away is similar only extra time away is the small advantage they can have. We have experiences here playing home and away is totally different.

"Against Lille we won here and struggled away in Ajax the other way around. They will feel they can be stronger in their stadium with their supporters. We have to try and get an advantage knowing in our experiences to play away could be more difficult than at home. Our objective is to try and win."

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