The Premier League makes it’s long awaited return tonight as Aston Villa host Sheffield United in an empty Villa Park.
Both sides are at the opposite ends of the table currently, with Aston Villa 2 points from safety in 19th place while Sheffield United are just 5 points off the Champions League places in a stellar first season back in the Premier League.
With the clubs fulfilling their game-in-hand as the return fixture, all eyes will be on these two teams to see what fans can expect in terms of performance across the rest of the league.
Aston Villa are still missing goalkeeper Tom Heaton and striker Wesley for the remainder of the season following knee injuries picked up on New Year’s Day, but welcome back influential midfielder John McGinn. The Scotland international was in excellent form for Villa prior to breaking his ankle in December, an injury that was originally supposed to keep him out for the rest of the season.
“It’s an honour [to be the first game], the eyes of the world will be on us and we are looking forward to it. The players’ feel comfortable and safe and thankfully nobody has tested positive. We’re all set to go now, and they just want to play football. They are really looking forward to it, they just want to play football.”
Sheffield United announced that they had agreed terms with Manchester United to extend the loan of young goalkeeper Dean Henderson until the end of the current campaign at the earliest, something that manager Chris Wilder admitted was a huge relief.
“I spoke to Ole yesterday morning and I thanked him for his co-operation with Dean. We’re in a situation where Dean will hopefully agree a deal to stay until the end of the season in the coming days.”
The Blades sit in a lofty 7th place at the restart of the Premier League season, knowing a win against Villa on Wednesday evening will move them up to fifth ahead of Manchester United and just 2 points behind Chelsea.
Wilder has a full-strength squad to choose from ahead of the game, with captain Billy Sharp raring to go after signing a new contract with the club.
While the break is obviously a massive inconvenience to the momentum of Sheffield United, they’ve been impressive all season. Defensively they’ve been solid and very hard to break down, while going forward set-pieces have been a big key to their success. Aston Villa however will see the break as a potential blessing in disguise. A chance for the players to rest, recover and come back re-focused looking to remain in the division. Jack Grealish will of course be central to any successes they have and if he is to leave in the summer as expected, he will be hopeful it will be on good terms with the club still in England’s top flight.
Sheffield United to win – 13/10
Under 2.5 match goals – 4/5