Unai Emery teases new Aston Villa signing debut against Hibs but insists respect is top of the bill

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Unai Emery has revealed new loan signing Nicolò Zaniolo could make his Aston Villa debut against Hibs in the first leg of the teams’ Europa Conference League play-off encounter as he insisted the English side will treat their Scottish opponents with the utmost respect.

The 51-year-old has enjoyed considerable success in continental competition with previous clubs, but wouldn’t be drawn against the possibility of the Villans enjoying relatively straightforward passage to the group stages of European football’s tertiary competition.

"It was amazing last year how we achieved qualification for the Europa Conference League, and now we are going to enjoy it,” he said, as he previewed the trip to Edinburgh. “We have to enjoy, but also be demanding in the possibility to do something. We are playing against Hibs, we have to respect them, we have to play two matches to try to be in the group for the next step. That is the objective. I want to focus on the match like the importance I think it has because to play in Europe is always something amazing and great for everybody.”

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Asked if he felt Villa could go deep in the competition and possibly even emulate West Ham United’s trophy win of last season, when they defeated Italian cracks Fiorentina in the final at Prague’s Fortuna Arena, the Spaniard stated: "I want to really focus on each moment, and enjoy each moment, and now the moment is playing against Hibs. We play two matches against them and enjoy it. Of course the objective is to get in [to the group stages] but not thinking too far ahead. We are going to create something here, we are going to build something here, that is the only way I want. Then of course try to do something.”

Nicolò Zaniolo could make his Aston Villa debut against Hibs. Picture: Claudio Villa/Getty ImagesNicolò Zaniolo could make his Aston Villa debut against Hibs. Picture: Claudio Villa/Getty Images
Nicolò Zaniolo could make his Aston Villa debut against Hibs. Picture: Claudio Villa/Getty Images

The game has been billed as the ‘John McGinn derby’ given his history with both clubs but Emery – who has won the Europa League four times; thrice with Sevilla and once with Valencia – insists the Villa backroom staff have been preparing the same way they would for any game, despite the club captain’s obvious advantage as well as the presence of set-piece coach and former Hearts interim boss Austin MacPhee.

“We have our coaches analysing Hibs and they told me something last week about how they are playing and then we can use something they can tell us. We have to be demanding and respectful of them and then try to impose our game plan in two matches,” he explained.

The Spaniard also paid tribute to £2.5 million signing McGinn, who scored the first goal in Villa’s 4-0 Premier League dismantling of troubled Everton at the weekend, at the same time Hibs were playing Raith Rovers in the last 16 of the Viaplay Cup competition.

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“It was five years ago, I think he would cost more now! John is always positive in the dressing room, always happy, demanding, committed with his team-mates, with the club, with the coaches, his work is always high. I am happy for him. He is always trying to do his best. He was pushing until 85, 90 minutes [against Everton]. John is an example for others, for his teammates, for the supporters, for how defends everything.”

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