Aston Villa boss Unai Emery is “optimistic” his side’s charge for European football next season will prove successful.
Villa’s 2-1 win against Tottenham last week lifted them level with the Londoners, who sit seventh in the Europa Conference League play-off place, and to within a point of Brighton, who occupy the last Europa League spot.
Emery, whose side play at Liverpool on Saturday, told a press conference: “After the match against Tottenham, I am optimistic. It’s not in our hands, but we are going to play and try to win.”
Villa responded to recent back-to-back league defeats with victory against struggling Tottenham, their 14th top-flight win in 23 games since Emery took charge last October.
That run has seen the former Arsenal boss nominated for Premier League manager of the season.
Two games remain for Emery’s side – they are at home to Brighton on the final day – and their transformation under the Spaniard has brought a possible top-seven finish into sharp focus.
“I love Europe,” Emery said: “I really want to play Europe because after 15 years, spending a lot of time playing amazing matches, amazing performances and amazing matches, I am here to try and do the same with Aston Villa.”
The 51-year-old is the Europa League’s most successful manager, winning the competition three times with Sevilla and once with Villarreal, while he was a runner-up with Arsenal when they lost to Chelsea in the 2019 final.
“My focus, my passion, is to play here feeling strong emotions together, firstly in the Premier League, secondly trying to be close to trophies and then playing in Europe,” Emery said.
“That is my motivation every day. It’s the reason we have to be focused and, involving the people around us, thinking about football and the possibilities in our life.”
Emery revealed midfielder Philippe Coutinho will play no part in Villa’s last two games after sustaining an unspecified injury in training before the Tottenham match.
Emery added: “I talked with him this week. He’s a little bit unlucky with his month because I didn’t see him play matches like I want.
“But, of course, with the injuries coming, we have to be patient as well, now we are going to wait for his recovery.
“This year, he’s not going to play again until the end of this season because we are finishing in two weeks.”
Defender Calum Chambers missed training on Thursday due to illness, but is expected to be included in the squad for the trip to Anfield.