Sheffield United will re-open the Premier League season on Wednesday as they look to dispatch Aston Villa and jump into fifth in the table.
Chris Wilder’s men are eager to get going as they look to cement a European place. For Villa, the stakes are also high for Dean Smith and his team. A win would see them jump immediately out of the bottom three. A timely boost for the club as football returns from lockdown.
All eyes from this end of town, though, are on the Blades. In fine form prior to the season being suspended, it remains to be seen whether it will be a case of all guns blazing from Wilder’s men again.
United have a good record under Wilder when it comes to facing the Villans. Blades fans, then, will be hoping to see more of the same from their team on Wednesday evening.
Team news, injuries, suspensions
The Blades will have a full squad to choose from with no injuries or suspensions to be worried about.
Fresh off the back of new deals, David McGoldrick, Billy Sharp, and Oli Norwood will all be hoping for starts. Norwood, of course, is more or less guaranteed to get the nod. Sharp and McGoldrick, meanwhile, will likely battle it out for a spot alongside Oli McBurnie.
For Villa, the break has done them good in terms of injuries. Dean Smith will welcome back John McGinn, who looks sure to start in midfield after missing action since December.
On the other hand, they do have two long-term absentees in Tom Heaton and summer signing, Wesley. Neither will be fit for the return and look likely to miss the rest of the season.
Form guide and history
While there is little point looking at the ‘form guide’ given the break, history in recent times favours United.
Wilder has only lost once to Villa since taking over at Bramall Lane. That came in a 1-0 loss at Bramall Lane all the way back in January 2018. Since then, the Blades have triumphed 4-1 and 2-0, and should have won comfortably in the other fixture, chucking away a 3-0 lead in less than ten minutes last season.
It seems the United gaffer has the edge over Villa. They will, of course, be determined to change that!
The game could very well come down to a battle of Scotsmen in terms of which way this game swings. John Fleck is key for the Blades, while the returning McGinn was also outstanding prior to being injured.
Whoever comes out on top of that battle might well tilt the game for his team.
In other areas, Jack Grealish will need to be well marshalled by the likes of Norwood and Lundstram. While at the top of the pitch, Oli McBurnie will relish the physical battle he has in-store with Tyrone Mings.
Prior to this season, Villa had never lost a game to Sheffield United in the Premier League. The Villans were the victors in five of the last six previous meetings.
Their only slip-up came in the 2006/07 season when Danny Webber and Stephen Quinn ensured a 2-2 draw for the Blades.
Coincidentally, many United fans insist that the 3-0 loss to Villa that season sent them down. Make of that what you will.
Sheff United News prediction
Prior to the lockdown, we’d have backed United to take all three points here and pretty comfortably.
However, the return of McGinn is massive and it remains to be seen how the break has affected us. Furthermore, the nine subs rule could well impact the game as well.
We’re going for 1-1. A valuable, if not ideal point for the Blades.