As the final day of the Premier League looms, many of the battles are already fought and won, at the top end of the table, one remains: The last European space left.
The title has been won by Manchester City, the top four places are now secured and we now who is heading for the Champions League, Liverpool have their European status cemented and Brighton & hove Albion are set for their highest-ever Premier League finish. Eyes now turn to the fate of Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur to see who will compete in the European Conference League next season. Spurs will face off away at Leeds and Brighton will host Villa, who currently occupy said space in seventh position. If Spurs win, then Aston Villa have to take three points from Brighton, If Spurs draw and Villa lose, then Spurs will go to Europe. This is a must-win game for the Villains in order for them to control their own fate and doing it away at a Brighton side who have scored the joint-third most goals this season is a big ask.
Form-wise, the clubs are identical in terms of results, dates notwithstanding, both have two wins, two losses, and a draw from their last five matches. The major difference lies in the nature of these fixtures, Aston Villa’s games have all been close-fought affairs of late, with no side winning by a greater margin of one goal. Unai Emery has revitalised a stuttering Villa this season and has guided them up the table steadily and Villa fans are excited by the prospect of European football once again and a full season of the Spaniard’s coaching. Brighton’s matches however have been wildly erratic, conceding eleven goals and scoring nine in the same time frame, Roberto De Zerbi had big shoes to fill when Graham Potter left the club and he has performed admirably, guaranteeing Brighton fans the prospect of European football for the first time since their inception.
Villa will travel without their explosive wingback Alex Moreno, whose hamstring issue will keep him out until at least mid-August. Superstar Phillipe Coutinho has had his season confirmed over with an undisclosed injury. Villa’s defensive options will be expanded, however, with both Diego Carlos and Calum Chambers back in training and expected to make the journey down south.
Brighton will be unable to field several first team players and the absences will be felt heavily in the midfield. Jakub Moders knee problem persists and Solly March won’t return to fitness in time. Adam Lallana may make a cameo from the bench however, but it is a big ask with how much of the latter part of the season he has missed. Rapid wide defender Tariq Lamptey has had his fledgling career halted by a knee issue and we won’t see him return before the next season starts and Jeremy Sarmiento will also be missed.
This game features two World Cup winners and Brighton’s Alexis Mac Allsiter will likely lead the line again in the final day. Hes featured in several roles this season but has been most effective as a number ten, using his keen eye for a pass and ability to retain possession to great effect for club and country, Villa will need to make use of the tenacity of Douglas Luiz or Leander Dendoncker’s physicality to try and keep him quiet.
Jacob Ramsey has cemented himself as one of Aston Villa’s key players, a local lad and fan-favourite, the young midfielder has scored some critical goals this season and also chipped in with five assists. His knack for showing up at the right time unmarked between the lines is a potent threat at any point in the game.
Expert Insight: Brighton score and also concede goals frequently, and Villa have made themselves very tough to beat of late. With Brighton’s bizarre form of late, this could be a very exciting final fixture.