Aston Villa have made a pleasing return to European competition this term, as they look to follow in the footsteps of West Ham United and claim success in the Europa Conference League. Villa still have a task on their hands to finish top of the group standings, but Unai Emery could the key factor in the club’s target to win the competition this term after previously achieving huge success on the continent during his time with Sevilla.
The West Midlands giants are already among the leading contenders with TwinSpinCA to win the tournament this year, but the competition will have a fresh outlook after the end of the Europa League group stage, as some huge clubs could drop into the competition. But, which teams could threaten Villa’s position at the top of the betting to win the Conference League in 2024?
Group B in the Europa League is still wide-open, and any of the four teams in the group could drop into the Conference League. However, Ajax look best positioned to achieve that after rediscovering their form following a shaky start to the campaign. The Dutch giants will be a menacing opponent for Villa should they meet in the latter stages of the Conference League, as success in the competition could be their only route back into Europe next term following a disastrous start to the Eredivisie.
But, Ajax appear to be growing in confidence at this stage after winning three of their least four domestic matches, and they could end their Europa League group campaign on a high with matches against Marseille and AEK Athens.
Union Saint-Gilloise have been one of the big stories in European football over recent seasons after making their return to the Belgian top-flight after a 47-year absence in 2021, before reaching the Champions League qualifying round for the first time in their history in the following season. The Belgian side have already shown their quality on the continent in recent seasons after reaching the quarterfinals of the Europa League last term.
However, it looks likely that they will drop into the Conference League after Christmas after winning just once in their four matches in Group E. Their chances of progression to the next round already appear challenging, as they close their campaign with a home fixture against Liverpool.
A standout club that Villa fans will be hopeful to avoid in the Conference League looks set to be Villarreal. Emery’s former club could drop into the competition if they fall to at least two defeats in their remaining three matches in the competition.
The Spanish side enjoyed huge success during Emery’s period at the helm, which included a Europa League success in 2021 after beating Manchester United on penalties. Villarreal’s hostile home crowd would make them a difficult side to overcome in the knockout round of the competition, and they could use the Conference League as a route back into European competition next season.