Danny Murphy warns Aston Villa of pitfalls of reaching Unai Emery target

Danny Murphy
Danny Murphy knows Villa will have a challenging schedule next year if they finish fourth -Credit:Match of the Day/BBC Sport

Danny Murphy pointed to Newcastle United as an example of how it can be a struggle to cope with the rigorous demands of both the Premier League and the Champions League, as Aston Villa attempt to cement their place in the top four in these remaining games of the season.

Villa sit six points ahead of Tottenham Hotspur, who have two games in hand but still have to face all of the top three in their remaining matches between now and the end of May. Villa also have a superior goal difference to Spurs, so their fate remains in their own hands as they prepare to welcome Chelsea to Villa Park this weekend.

While they have business still to take care of on the European stage in the coming weeks, as they take on Olympiacos in the semi-final of the Europa Conference League, Villa's primary aim under Unai Emery is to seal fourth place and bring Champions League football to Birmingham next season.

Murphy has been impressed by Villa's recruitment and their recent tying down of Emery in the face of potential interest from the big clubs around Europe in his services, but he knows what awaits the club if they find themselves in a position next term where they're having to spin plates domestically and continentally - and Newcastle this term are the perfect case study.

READ: Cole Palmer Chelsea return update ahead of Aston Villa

READ: Unai Emery fires warning to Aston Villa squad after contract extension

"The realistic ambition is to be a regular Champions League team, and to cement themselves in that top four, but that's going to be extremely difficult, because even if the funds are there, with the Financial Fair Play, there's only so far they can go in terms of bulking up the squad and making them better," Murphy told talkSPORT.

"The competition, also, around them is very high. There are big clubs out there trying to emulate what they're doing, but they've just invested into the manager again, which is a good idea. That's not only because they want him there, and because they want success, but they're protecting their asset as well. There is always a likelihood of somebody trying to get him because of the job he's doing. What a job he's done.

"Players are improving, the mentality is improving. I watched the game in Lille. There was a nervous, difficult period in the game, especially in the first half, when they could've gone under. Even when they went behind, they kept to the plan, they got the goal and got themselves through to penalties. That's the experience of the manager, who has been there and done it in European football.

"It didn't become chaotic. They didn't start chasing the game, they stayed in it, they got over the line and that's what he does. I'm pleased because I always like to see new teams enter the fold of that top four. They've got potential. They've got some good young players, a manager who knows his stuff and owners who can back - but can they spend the money?

"I don't know enough about their finances to see how much they can spend - because they do need some investment, to get to the next step. As we've seen with Newcastle this year, if Villa get it - I know Tottenham will fight tooth and nail - but if Villa get it they've then got to endure a Champions League campaign against high quality opposition while trying to maintain momentum in the Premier League. Newcastle have shown you how hard that can be."

How many points do Villa need in their final four games? Tell us here