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Premier League: Aston Villa send out statement with Brighton thrashing

Aston Villa made a huge statement of intent in the early kick off on Saturday with a 6-1 demolition of Brighton at Villa Park.

Ollie Watkins hit a hat-trick as Unai Emery’s men put the Seagulls to the sword as they recorded a third successive Premier League victory.

Villa looking to challenge for Europe again

Villa secured a place in Europe for the first time since the 2010/11 season by qualifying for this year’s Europa Conference League.

Emery will be targeting back-to-back European campaigns for Villa, with the Europa League the next step and the Champions League not necessarily out of the question - if they manage to keep their key men fit.

The Villans could also qualify for the Europa League by winning the Europa Conference League, and they are currently rated as the 9/2 favourites to win Europe’s third-tier competition.

Watkins the key to rampant Villa attack

Villa have now hit 18 goals in their seven Premier League games and the return to form of Ollie Watkins should see them kick on after his hat-trick against Brighton.

Watkins failed to score in his first five Premier League appearances, although he did hit a hat-trick against Hibs in an ECL qualifier, but he finally got off the mark in the win at Chelsea last time out.

That strike may well have given him the confidence boost he needed, as Watkins was in sensational form in the win over Albion with two goals inside the first 21 minutes.

The England international completed his hat-trick just after the hour mark, and also registered a third assist of the season by setting up second-half substitute Jacob Ramsey.

Villa are by no means a one-man team and a number of their players have been performing well in these early stages of the season.

Marquee summer signing Moussa Diaby managed an assist on Saturday in the win over Brighton and has already established himself as a key member of the starting XI after his move from Bayer Leverkusen.

Defender Matty Cash has chipped in with two goals and an assist, while Douglas Luiz is a consistent performer in the heart of midfield.

Having an in-form striker is vital, of course, and if Watkins can maintain this level of form over the next few weeks Emery’s side have a great opportunity to establish themselves as top four challengers.

Villans have a chance to put a run together

Emery’s men now enter a period where they have a chance to put a run of results together after what could have been a tough pair of games against Chelsea and Brighton.

Next up for Villa in the league is a trip to Midlands rivals Wolves and they then face West Ham (h), Luton Town (h), Nottingham Forest (a) and Fulham (h) before a tricky trip to Tottenham.

Villa will probably be expected to take points from each of their next five games and they will likely be favourites to win all of them - so they have a real chance to cement a place in the top four or five in the league before that clash at Spurs at the end of November.

Managing Europe key for Emery

Villa also have their Europa Conference League bid to contend with and they entertain Bosnian outfit Zrinjski Mostar on Thursday in a crucial fixture.

Defeat at Legia in their group-stage opener means Villa sit bottom of Group E after one game, and another defeat would leave them facing an uphill battle to reach the knockout stages.

Villa also face AZ Alkmaar twice in the first phase of the competition and Emery will have to find a way to make the most of the depth of his squad if Villa are to compete in both the Premier League and Europe.

Villa’s midweek EFL Cup defeat at home to Everton will have come as a blow but may ultimately turn out to be a blessing in disguise. 

The Birmingham outfit’s best chance of silverware may well be the Europa Conference League despite their defeat to Legia in the first round of group fixtures, and finishing as high as possible in the Premier League is the obvious priority.

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