Unai Emery makes Ollie Watkins contract declaration .

Latest Aston Villa news from BirminghamLive as Unai Emery confirms he is hopeful Ollie Watkins will sign a new deal with the club

Watkins scored his three goals against the Seagulls in front of Gareth Southgate, as the England boss was in the stands at Villa Park ahead of naming his squad for the October internationals. The 27-year-old striker is yet to be recalled to the Three Lions squad after Emery replaced Steven Gerrard at Villa, despite only Erling Haaland and Mo Salah recording more goal contributions than Watkins since the Spaniard’s return to Premier League management.

Ahead of the club’s Europa Conference League clash with Zrinjski Mostar on Thursday, Emery was asked if he was hopeful Watkins would sign a new deal. He said: “We can be optimistic at the possibility he will extend his contract with Aston Villa. Yes, 100 per cent confident because I think he is happy here and progressing. He is taking a new challenge on with us.

“I think Ollie, his progress before we arrived here was important. He has been consistent with us because he is very demanding with himself, every day in practice.

Unai Emery is hopeful Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins will sign a new contract

“Each match for him is a challenge. He is not always about scoring goals, he is always taking the challenge with the team, trying to qualify for Europe like we did last year.

“We are helping him as well, trying to work with him and make improvements to his game. The challenges we have, with Ollie Watkins, Aston Villa and myself, the challenge we have to progress, I think he is in the same way.”

Waktins started on the bench in Villa’s first Europa Conference League group stage match against Legia Warsaw last month. Jhon Duran led the line and scored his fourth goal of the season in the 3-2 defeat, and Emery was asked which forward he will start from the off on Thursday night’s clash with Zrinjski.

“Waktins is in the squad, of course, he is available for tomorrow,” Emery said. “We will decide if he is in the starting XI because I want to try and manage the players, giving them chances. Ollie Watkins, Jhon Duran, Zaniolo. With some players not available for tomorrow, I have to keep the balance for the starting XI, with the balance of the matches before and those after tomorrow.

“It is trying to keep a balance of playing, trying to manage the squad and other players. I want and am very happy with Ollie Watkins. But I want and will need other players taking minutes and taking confidence. One of them is Jhon Duran.”

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