'Expectation is rising by the week - confidence is sky high': Former Premier League manager claims surprise side can challenge

oubacar Kamara of Aston Villa is challenged by Joelinton of Newcastle United during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Aston Villa at St. James Park on August 12, 2023 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The Premier League approaches the busy festive period with everything to play for, and one surprise side has been backed to challenge at the top of the table. 

Aston Villa face Manchester City at Villa Park in midweek on Amazon Prime. A win would take Unai Emery's side above City in the Premier League table - and former Villa manager Martin O'Neill believes the club is beginning to believe of upsetting the status quo under an impressive boss. 

"Expectation is rising by the week, which is obviously a good thing," O'Neill tells FourFourTwo. "It's a nice thing now for Villa fans to reach out and think that they've got a chance again, because it's been a difficult decade for them. They've a really good manager in charge, and I think he will keep them going.

Moussa Diaby of Aston Villa celebrates the team's first goal alongside goal scorer Douglas Luiz during the Premier League match between Aston Villa and West Ham United at Villa Park on October 22, 2023 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

Aston Villa are flying this season (Image credit: Getty Images)

"I didn't need Emery to do all of the things he's doing at Villa to be impressed with him. His record is excellent, really excellent. I think he had a really tough time and, one might say, a bit of a raw deal at Arsenal, where he wasn't given a great deal of time.

"And then he goes to PSG where he says himself that he wasn't in charge, but Neymar was in charge of the team. But am I surprised about the last 12 months? Not really, considering his record in European football with Sevilla and Villarreal."

Of course, Manchester City will prove incredibly tricky opponents. But O'Neill suggests now could be as good a time as any to face them. 

Football manager Martin O'Neill, pictured during a television broadcast of the UEFA Nations League match between Scotland and the Republic of Ireland on 24 September, 2022 at Hampden Park in Glasgow, United Kingdom

Villa are full of confidence and have the ability to beat anyone, believes O'Neill (Image credit: Craig Williamson/SNS Group via Getty Images)

Rodri and Jack Grealish are both banned for the trip to Birmingham after picking up their fifth yellow cards of the season against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, and Guardiola's side are without a win in their last three league matches.  

"You might as well take all of the advantages available - you might play Manchester City on another day in six or seven weeks time when everything's alright with them, but at the moment they've got one or two missing and a few problems to deal with.

"It'll not be easy, but Aston Villa must be going in into this game with confidence sky high."

Martin O’Neill will be working as a pundit for Prime Video’s coverage of Aston Villa vs Man City on 6th December. Prime Video is broadcasting 20 Premier League fixtures this season, including a full round of fixtures in December, featuring matches such as Luton vs Arsenal and Manchester United vs Chelsea – plus every Boxing Day match. 

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