Aston Villa Vs Ajax Match Preview (1 Viewer)

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Following a deadlock in their previous encounter, Europa Conference League giants Aston Villa and Ajax will clash once again on Thursday, with only one team advancing to the quarter-finals.

The stage is set for a showdown at Villa Park as two former European Cup winners vie for progression. Aston Villa, topping Group E and bypassing a tricky playoff, embarked on their first UEFA spring phase journey since 2009 last Thursday. However, their clash with Ajax resulted in a rare goalless draw, marked by late red cards for Ezri Konsa and Ajax's Tristan Gooijer, setting the stage for a decisive second leg in Birmingham.

Any hopes of a morale boost for Villa were dashed with a disheartening 4-0 defeat against Tottenham Hotspur over the weekend, denting their bid for Champions League qualification. Despite their fourth-place standing in the Premier League, the loss was a bitter pill to swallow for Villa.

Nevertheless, Villa Park has been a fortress, and Ajax's struggles away from home in the Europa League group stage offer some hope for the hosts.

While Villa's Basque manager, Unai Emery, boasts a decorated European pedigree, including winning the Europa League, success in the Conference League has eluded him thus far. A victory against a traditional powerhouse like Ajax would be a significant step toward the final.

Ajax, a formidable force in European football with four European Cup triumphs, finds themselves in a challenging situation. Despite a recent resurgence under interim coach John van't Schip, Ajax's inconsistent form, evident from their fifth-place standing in Eredivisie, raises questions about their readiness for the challenge ahead.

Although Ajax has shown flashes of brilliance, scoring three or more goals in several European fixtures this season, their young and relatively inexperienced squad faces a daunting task against a top Premier League side like Aston Villa. It remains to be seen how they will fare against Villa's formidable lineup.

INJURIES & SUSPENSION​

Despite inspirational skipper John McGinn being available for the last time before serving a domestic suspension, Aston Villa will miss defender Ezri Konsa due to a one-match ban following his dismissal in Amsterdam.

Unai Emery continues to deal with the absence of long-term injured players Emi Buendia, Boubacar Kamara, and Tyrone Mings. Jhon Duran remains sidelined with a hamstring injury, while Jacob Ramsey's availability for Thursday's match is uncertain.

Considering the hectic schedule, Emery might consider bringing Moussa Diaby, Alex Moreno, and Diego Carlos off the bench. However, top scorer Ollie Watkins is unlikely to be rested, especially with Nicolo Zaniolo also suspended.

Ajax will have Devyne Rensch back in action at Villa Park after serving a suspension on Sunday. However, Tristan Gooijer will miss out due to his late red card last week.

Steven Bergwijn and Steven Berghuis are still unavailable for Ajax, but Josip Sutalo returned to action over the weekend and is expected to start in defense alongside young center-back Ahmetcan Kaplan, who impressed in the first leg.

POSSIBLE LINE-UPS​

Aston Villa possible starting lineup:
Martinez; Cash, Carlos, Torres, Moreno; McGinn, Luiz, Iroegbunam, Tielemans; Diaby, Watkins

Ajax possible starting lineup:
Ramaj; Sutalo, Kaplan, Hato; Rensch, Mannsverk, Henderson, Sosa; Hlynsson, Taylor; Brobbey

EXPERT PREDICTION​

Aston Villa 2-1 Ajax
The possibility of extra time and penalties will undoubtedly focus the tired legs and minds within the Aston Villa squad. Unai Emery's team will be determined to settle their fate within the regulation 90 minutes. With the advantage of home support and a wealth of experience, Aston Villa should be able to overcome an Ajax side that is still developing.
 

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