Unai Emery says it is his “dream” that Aston Villa enter their final game of the season with a chance to qualify for Europe after victory over Tottenham who continued their transformation from relegation strugglers to continental contenders.
Villa climbed to seventh place after beating Tottenham, their sixth successive home league victory which took them level on 57 points with their sixth-placed opponents.
Aston Villa were 19th in the table after losing four of their first five Premier League games of the season.
With two matches to play – at Liverpool on May 20 and at home to Brighton on the final day eight days later – they have a chance of qualifying for Europe for the first time since the 2010-11 season.
“If we can play here against Brighton [on the final day of the season] with the possibility of entering Europe, that is my dream,” said Emery.
“We can be happy and excited about our position.”
Eighth-placed Brighton are two points behind Villa with three games less.
But Villa have made impressive progress under Emery, who said he did not think Europe was achievable when he officially took charge on November 1, when Villa were one point above the area of relegation after the dismissal of Steven Gerrard.
“No, it was a process, but I told the players that if we could get a chance to go, we would try to get it,” added the former Arsenal boss. “If we haven’t had it, it’s not a failure. It’s a process.”
Villa took control against Tottenham thanks to Jacob Ramsey’s neat eighth-minute finish, followed by Douglas Luiz’s free-kick.
Spurs, who can no longer finish in a Champions League place, were flat and uninspiring, although Harry Kane scored a consolation from the penalty spot after being fouled by goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez.
Tottenham failed to register a single attempt on goal in the first half as Villa completed the double over their opponents for the first time since the 1995-96 season.
Will Villa play in Europe next season?
Aston Villa trailed Tottenham by 14 points in the Premier League table as recently as March 11, but their revival under Emery has been nothing short of remarkable.
Their 14th win in 23 Premier League games under Emery was well deserved, although it wasn’t until Luiz’s fine 72nd-minute finish from a free-kick that Villa could relax.
Villa have not played in Europe since coming out of the play-off against Rapid Vienna in the Europa League in 2010.
Under Emery, they gave themselves a big chance to return to the continent after another assured performance in front of their own fans.
Martinez made a fine save to prevent Kane from equalizing in the second half before being beaten by the Tottenham captain from the spot.
Even that, however, did not dampen the full-time celebrations as Villa took a big step towards European qualification.
“We want to connect with our supporters, get energy and give them our energy, and this is the sixth win in a row here,” Emery said.
Spurs miss the Champions League
Spurs offered little in terms of attacking threat before Kane’s consolation from the penalty spot.
Son Heung-min was frustrated with the offside flag, including deep in stoppage time when the South Korean striker thought he had leveled, while Richarlison managed just nine touches before being substituted .
On a less than positive day for the visitors, substitute Yves Bissouma at least provided a midfield presence in his first appearance since February 5.
Spurs, however, were disappointing and will finish outside the top four for the third time in four seasons – despite holding a Champions League place as recently as the first week of April.
With no Champions League football to look forward to, will Kane be there when the next permanent manager is appointed?
Kane still has 12 months left on his contract at the end of the season but questions will continue to be asked about his future after a rocky season on and off the pitch at Tottenham.
Despite this defeat, interim boss Ryan Mason still hopes to deliver a place in the Europa League.
“We understand that we have two important games and it’s still in our hands, what we want to achieve,” Mason said.
“We have to learn and try to be better.”
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