Aston Villa manager Unai Emery is prioritizing a top-four Premier League finish over a potential Europa Conference League trophy. The Spanish coach has been a revelation at the club since he joined back in the fall of 2022. While Villa sat 16th in the English top-flight table at the time, Emery eventually guided the team to seventh in the standings. As a result, the West Midlands qualified for European competition for the first time since 2011.

As good as his freshman season was, Emery currently has Villa inside the top four of the standings. The Birmingham-based team is seven points clear of fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur. However, the north London side does have two extra games in hand compared to Emery’s club.

Not only is Villa fighting for a potential place in next season’s Champions League, but they have also advanced to the Europa Conference League semifinals. The English team is set to face Greek powerhouse Olympiacos in the first leg of the matchup on Thursday.

Unai Emery emphasizes importance of Champions League spot

Ahead of the big game, Emery was asked about which was more important to the club. The Spaniard initially claimed the club was in a position to succeed in both competitions. However, the coach then asserted that the Premier League was the clear priority for his team.

“We are very excited for the Conference League and very motivated with the Premier League,” stated Emery. “It’s not changing my first message when we started the season – the most important thing is the Premier League, then we can add the FA Cup, Carabao Cup and Conference League.

“If we get to the end of the season being a contender, of course, the importance is changing a little bit. The first priority is the Premier League but we’re trying to do the best in both.”

Big European clubs crave Champions League nights

The argument over securing a top-four in the Premier League versus winning a trophy has been debated for years. Some fans and pundits will point out that Villa has not collected silverware since 1996. As a result, the club should prefer a triumph in the Europa Conference League.

Nevertheless, Emery is correct in his survey of his club’s current situation. Qualifying for the Champions League, particularly for a team such as Villa, provides clubs with significant money. Team brass can then flex their financial muscles even further in the upcoming summer transfer window.

Not only will grabbing a top-four place give Villa a massive monetary boost, but they will also take part in the top European tournament next season. The Villans have not played a Champions League match since 1983. Potentially winning the Conference League, while providing a trophy, will only put Villa in the second-tiered Europa League for the 2024/25 campaign.

Although Emery may be prioritizing the Premier League, it is also still possible that Villa can triumph in both competitions. The best-case scenario for the club is to win the Conference League and finish fourth in the domestic table.

Emery’s squad can book a place in next season’s Champions League as early as this weekend. In this scenario, Spurs would have to lose to both Chelsea and Liverpool this week, while Villa needs to top Brighton on Sunday.