Mauricio Pochettino: Aston Villa manager Unai Emery ‘one of the best in the world’

Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino hailed Aston Villa counterpart Unai Emery as one of the best in the sport, ahead of their FA Cup fourth-round clash.

Chelsea booked their place in the Carabao Cup final on Tuesday and they will look to advance in another competition against Premier League high-flyers Villa on Friday.

Villa side sit five points behind leaders Liverpool in the league and have been rejuvenated under Spanish boss Emery since he joined from Villarreal in 2022.

“I think that Unai Emery is one of the best coaches in the world and he’s creating a very good organisation at Aston Villa,” Pochettino told a press conference on Thursday.

“They have very good players, amazing players.

“It is clear the project of Aston Villa and that’s why they are performing and winning games.

“It doesn’t surprise me (that they are in the top four) I am so happy for him and all the people involved in this project.

“You can feel that they are a very solid team with clear ideas. It is a very good group of players.”

Ollie Watkins’ second-half winner separated the two sides during Villa’s 1-0 league victory over the 10-man Blues at Stamford Bridge in September.

And Pochettino believes Chelsea would have won the game if it was not for Malo Gusto’s 58th-minute red card for a challenge on Lucas Digne and felt his side lost confidence after the defeat.

“To be honest this was the type of game we should win,” Pochettino said.

“We had chances to score before Gusto got sent off in the second half and we performed really well.

“All the confidence went to Birmingham and we lost all the confidence for us to be in the position that they are now.

“I think it was an even game but they were clinical in the second half. We deserved more but full credit to them for what they are doing.

“We cannot play with 10 men against a team like Aston Villa because they can punish you.”

Chelsea’s 6-1 victory over Middlesbrough in the Carabao Cup semi-final second leg booked their place at Wembley, where they will face Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool on February 25.

Chelsea lost both the FA Cup and Carabao Cup finals against Liverpool in 2022 and are seeking their first trophy since lifting the Club World Cup that same year.

Pochettino talked up the occasion, highlighting the “massive challenge” of facing Klopp’s in-form Reds.

“We are going to face a very solid and consistent team. They will be a tough opponent and it will be a massive challenge for us,” he said.

“It has all the ingredients in the final to be a massive challenge and it will be good to play Liverpool. It will be tough but it will be a great final.”