Aston Villa’s defensive centre-back partnership of Curtis Davies and Martin Laursen have spoken of the enormity of the occasion with the visit of Dutch giants Ajax in the Uefa Cup on Thursday night.
Villa Park is set to be packed to the rafters with supporters eager to taste the excitement of a big European night and the two players are both relishing the event but for different reasons.
Davies, aged 22, is a newcomer to the European stage, having joined Villa in a £10 million move from West Bromwich Albion in the summer while Danish International Laursen, 27, has experienced European action before with his former club AC Milan.
But while Laursen was with his former club when the Italian giants won the Uefa Champions League Final at Old Trafford in 2003 – beating rivals Juventus on penalties – he was not actually on the pitch having lost his place in the side to the Italian legend Paulo Maldini and Alessandra Nesta.
Now both Villa’s central defenders hope to be included in manager Martin O’Neill’s squad ahead of the visit of the Dutch side managed by former Holland International, Marco Van Basten.
Davies said: “This is the reason why a lot of the lads wanted to come and play for Aston Villa.
“Nicky Shorey from Reading, Luke Young from Middlesbrough and Carlos Cuellar from Rangers – they all came here to play European football.
“Now we have drawn the likes of Ajax and Hamburg and it is fantastic for us all. We can’t wait for the games to get under way.
“The fans will get to see how far we have come on this stage and the progess that has been made.
“We also want to put in a good performance and show the rest of Europe how far we have come.”
Davies continued: “No disrespect to the likes of Litex Lovech or Odense but this is where it all starts for us.
“We had a low seeding being picked fourth which meant we were drawn with three other big names.
“But we are confident whenever we play at Villa Park. We will go out there with the confidence that we have always perfomed well at Villa Park this season.”
His views were shared by Laursen who joined Villa in May 2004 in a £3 million move. After a long period out injured due to knee surgery, he has made such an impression on Aston Villa that he is now the club’s captain.
Laursen said: “We have a good squad and it is getting better and better so now we are playing European football which is what everybody wanted.
“A club like Aston Villa needs a lot of players to make it in Europe, the games come think and fast and that is on top of the Premier League and domestic competitions.
“It is nice to play in Europe and see other countries and host big clubs like Ajax at Villa Park.
“It is something different and we are all looking forward to that.”
Danish International Laursen added: “It is not necessarily true that the quality of players in Europe is better because to be honest the best players in the world play here in the Premier League. But it is something different. Villa are getting better and better so hopefully we can make it in Europe.”
Laursen says the additions made to the squad in the summer will now prove to be worth their weight in gold.
“It takes a lot of players to play in Europe and it is a good experience for everyone. “ he said. “Not only for me but for the younger players as well.”
Manager O’Neill has confirmed left back Nicky Shorey will be in the side.