The eyes of a nation will be on Villa Park tomorrow when English football officially returns.
Sheffield United will lock horns with Aston Villa in the first Premier League game to take place for over three months, in an eagerly anticipated clash that kicks off at 6pm.
The return of the top flight will offer Chris Wilder’s high-flying Blades an opportunity to continue their hunt for European football, as they currently sit 7th in the table. The clash with Villa will bring them level with their rivals in terms of games played, and a win could allow them to leapfrog both Wolves and Manchester United.
Although concerns over the impact of a break on muscles have plagued many discussions, Sheffield United will be heading into their 29th league fixture with a fully fit squad. The Blades will also have goalkeeper Dean Henderson available as his loan deal is yet to expire. They may also be able to select the 23-year-old for future fixtures as he is reportedly on the verge of penning an extension.
Aston Villa, however, will be without goalkeeper Tom Heaton and striker Wesley, who both remain sidelined. The pair are still battling long-term knee injuries, but stopper Jed Steer and playmaker John McGinn will be available.
Chris Wilder’s side emerged victorious when the two sides last met in December 2019, thanks to a brace from John Fleck. However, the Blades have only managed to beat Villa in two of their last 12 league fixtures against the Villains.
For supporters of Aston Villa, defensive statistics make for worrying reading. Dean Smith’s side have conceded more goals than any other side in the division, leaking 56 since the 2019/20 campaign kicked off. Sheffield United, on the other hand, have a defensive record that is bettered only by league leaders Liverpool. They have conceded just 25 goals and will be hoping to keep Villa’s attacking contingent quiet to prevent that figure changing.
If Sheffield United come away from the Midlands with three points, it will be the first time they have beaten Aston Villa twice in a single league campaign since the 1965/66 season.
ONE TO WATCH
A mesmerising talent, Grealish’s stock has risen considerably since Villa returned to the top tier. He is the focal point of nearly every attack and has the ability to glide past players with ease. Keeping the 24-year-old quiet will be high on Sheffield United’s list of priorities, and Villa will be hoping that he can unlock a Blades defence that has proven resolute thus far.
The match will be shown live on Sky Sports, and you will be able to read a comprehensive match report on the Forge Sport website.