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'Priorities are understandable, but winning is winning'

Aston Villa expert view graphic
Aston Villa expert view graphic

Mike Taylor, BBC Radio WM

Unai Emery became unusually animated when asked if he would rather finish in the top four of the Premier League, or win the FA Cup.

"If you get in the next round, of course it's an opportunity," he said. But if you lose the semi-final – you lose everything. [To go out in] the third round or the semi-final is the same. You are not getting a trophy.

"This is a reason the Premier League is most important. You are being consistent, you get a top position and maybe you can play in Europe. I [want to be] getting something – a trophy or to play Europe. Only one team is going to win the FA Cup and it's difficult."

The FA Cup might rank below the Premier League for most managers, including Emery, but we have observed that - like all top sports players and coaches - Emery is a competitor. Fixture congestion notwithstanding, he fielded a strong side at Chelsea for the first tie, and will surely do so again.

Priorities are understandable, but winning is winning. When it is showtime, it is about the contest they are in at that moment, not the prize at the end.

Villa's strongest available selection is weakened, however, by the absence of Ezri Konsa. Understandably, the flashy achievements of creative players attract more attention, but Konsa's advance over the last year cannot be overlooked.

Capable in two positions, he has shown intelligence and athleticism. His England call-up before Christmas felt overdue, but he stayed on the bench - his first caps will surely come this year. His absence will be eased if Pau Torres is indeed fit again, having seemed "close" to a return for several weeks.

The response to Villa's thumping return to form was muted in some quarters, noting their obviously struggling opponent. There will no doubt be much harder tests to come, but it still felt like they had returned to their groove and they looked like a team having fun again.

If they are back in that mood, it surely will not matter to the players whether it is in the Premier League, FA Cup or in Europe – they'll all come alike.

Aston Villa v Chelsea – live commentary on BBC Radio WM (all frequencies and BBC Sounds), 19:45 GMT

BBC Radio WM Football Phone-In – weeknights 18:00 GMT

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