Here we go.
Aston Villa’s journey into the Europa Conference League proper begins on Thursday night with a trip to the Polish capital to face Legia Warsaw at the Legia Warsaw Stadium.
Villa have started the domestic season well as they sit in seventh place in the Premier League after three wins and two defeats from their opening five matches.
Last time out, a dramatic late turnaround was required against Crystal Palace as three goals in the closing minutes – a wonder strike from Jhon Durán, a Douglas Luiz penalty, and a side-footed finish from Leon Bailey – secured a 3-1 victory.
A top-seven finish last term sealed a first European campaign in 13 years for the Birmingham outfit and they advanced to the group stage for the first time since 2008 via an 8-0 aggregate triumph over Scottish side Hibernian in the playoff round.
Meanwhile, Kosta Runjaic’s Legia are embarking on a first European campaign since 2021, when they finished bottom of their Europa League group.
Poland’s most historically successful club with 15 league titles, Warsaw secured a return to Europe with a second-place finish in the Ekstraklasa last term and they also won the Polish Cup.
The Legionaries advanced to the Conference League group stage after qualifying-round wins over Ordabasy Shymkent of Kazakhstan and Austria Wien before they squeezed past Midtjylland of Denmark on penalties in the playoff round.
The Polish side have made a great start to their domestic season, sitting in third place in the Ekstraklasa with 14 points from their opening six games with two games in hand over the leaders Slask Wroclaw. Last time out, they drew 1-1 away at Piast Gliwice.
Despite Legia’s strong domestic form, Villa will look to exploit their defence, which has conceded 13 times in the Conference League already this season. Legia may prioritize their league campaign over a European adventure as they look to win the Polish title for the first time since 2021.
Could we see the return of Àlex Moreno to the XI? Moreno was back in the squad against Palace after an ankle injury and could potentially start against Legia.
Jacob Ramsey was back in training this week after injuring his foot on international duty in the summer, but Thursday’s match will come too soon for the midfielder.
Diego Carlos is still out with a hamstring injury and Tyrone Mings and Emi Buendia are long-term absentees.
Durán, Nicolo Zaniolo, and Youri Tielemans may be in line for starts after impressing against Palace.
As for Legia, Bartosz Kaputska and Ramil Mustafaev are sidelined with knee and cruciate ligament injuries whilst Rafal Augustyniak and Blaz Kramer are out with thigh strains.
Tomáš Pekhart will start up front for the Polish side. The veteran Czech striker has scored eight times already for Legia this term, including in the second leg of the playoff round against Midtjylland.
Aston Villa (4-2-2-2)
Martinez; Moreno, Konsa, Torres, Cash; Luiz, Tielemans; Zaniolo, McGinn; Diaby, Durán
Legia Warsaw (3-4-3)
Tobiasz; Ribeiro, Jedrzejczyk, Pankov; Wszolek, Slisz, Elitim, Kun; Josue, Pekhart, Gual
Unai Emery’s side will be confident of making early headway in Group E as they look to make it back-to-back English winners of this competition after West Ham United’s success last term.
Villa should be comfortable winners against a Legia side that have kept just one clean sheet in eight matches.
Prediction: Legia Warsaw 0 Aston Villa 3