Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham warned ‘team to watch’ Aston Villa could hijack top four spot

Aston Villa’s qualification for the Europa Conference League thanks to their transformation under Unai Emery caught many by surprise.

Now talkSPORT pundits believe they can go one step further next season though, with the Champions League a potential destination.

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Villa surprised many last season, capping off their season in winning fashionCredit: Getty
They were rewarded with qualification for Europe

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They were rewarded with qualification for EuropeCredit: Getty

Villa sat 17th in the table when Steven Gerrard was sacked in October, with Emery taking over shortly after.

He guided them ten spots up the table and into seventh by the end of the season, sealing European football for the first time since 2010.

Just one point separated them and Brighton in sixth, with Liverpool six ahead in fifth and Newcastle ten points clear in fourth.

A new season brings fresh expectations, with Chelsea and Liverpool eyeing the top four along with Tottenham after their respective poor campaigns.

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They last played in the Champions League in 1983 when it was named the European Cup, which they won the year prior, but talkSPORT pundits think a return for Villa could be on the cards very soon.

“Villa is the team to watch,” said their former striker and Drive co-host Darren Bent when asked about his dark horse for this season.

“I think when you look at their recruitment and what they’re doing with Unai Emery, I’m not saying they’re going to win the league because I don’t think they will but I think they’ll be a lot closer to Europe.

“Maybe even push it for long spells, the Champions League, so I’d probably say Villa are my outside bet.”

Spurs, with or without Kane, could be one to miss out because of Emery's side

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Spurs, with or without Kane, could be one to miss out because of Emery’s sideCredit: Getty

Villa haven’t been shy to make moves in the transfer market to build upon their impressive efforts last term.

Experience has arrived in the form of Pau Torres and Youri Tielemans, with Moussa Diaby another talent to arrive at Villa Park.

He may well have played for rivals Birmingham, but even Darren Ambrose believes Villa can take that next step.

“I mean is that a dark horse? They finished seventh last season but I think Emery is recruiting really well.

talkSPORT pundits believe they can cause a shock once again

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talkSPORT pundits believe they can cause a shock once againCredit: Getty

“I think they could be in the next pack but without the top one to challenge for that top four.”

Fellow former Blue Jermaine Pennant agreed: “On the back of last season maybe you could say Villa. They could be a dark horse depending on how they get off.”

Spurs, now under Ange Postecoglou, will gunning for a Champions League spot regardless of whether or not the Bayern Munich-linked Harry Kane stays.

However Mark Goldbridge believes that Emery’s side, along with two other clubs, should beat them to it: “I think Villa is always a good one, I know it’s a very popular one.

“I think it will be really interesting, I personally think Brighton, Newcastle and Villa should all be finishing above Spurs so we’ll see.”

Liverpool managed to salvage their poor mid-season form and secure a qualification spot for the Europa League.

Liverpool were in the Champions League final last year and will be keen to return

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Liverpool were in the Champions League final last year and will be keen to returnCredit: Getty
Pochettino could also eye the top four in his first season at Chelsea

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Pochettino could also eye the top four in his first season at ChelseaCredit: Getty

Chelsea on the other hand missed out on Europe completely, with their 12th place finish leaving them red-faced.

Former Villa striker Tony Cascarino also hinted at success for a side who could squander the hopes of two of the Premier League’s biggest clubs.

When asked if they could be a dark horse this season, he said: “Yeah, I mean there’s a lot to like about Emery’s Villa without a doubt.”

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There is clearly a lot of high expectation for Villa, with some of talkSPORT’s finest full of confidence in their ambitions.

It’s now up to them to continue their inspired resurgence and aim for such heights, even if they were playing in the Championship as recent as 2019.

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