Wednesday marks the return of Premier League football as Aston Villa and Sheffield United’s clash in an empty Villa Park – a game in hand which could prove vital for both sides come the end of the season.
Villa sit in 19th place with 25 points, while the Blades are 7th with 43 and a win for Dean Smith’s Villa side would see them take a vital step towards Premier League survival, which would move them up to 16th in the league standings.
Similarly, three-points would be significant for Chris Wilder’s side too, with a win elevating the Blades to 5th place, on target for Europa League football next season and only two points behind Chelsea who occupy 4th place and the final Champions League spot.
Villa suffered a 2-0 loss when these two met earlier in the season courtesy of a John Fleck brace on what was an afternoon to forget for the Villans as Jack Grealish squandered a brilliant opportunity form the penalty spot – much to the relief of United’s fans.
While form isn’t really relevant right now, given the extended break due to the COVID-19 break, it’s worth remembering that the Blades did win their last game before the suspension, 1-0 against Norwich City, and before that had won three of their previous six.
Villa, on the other hand, suffered a heavy 4-0 away loss to Leicester City, and were victorious in just one of their previous six games – with that win dating all the way back to the 21st January, against Watford at home.
But Villa Manager Dean Smith believes that the unexpected break has been useful for the players, having used the time off as a period to reset and reflect on the shortcomings of the season so far with so much still to play over the remaining 10 games.
“When this season starts again it will almost feel like a second season in the Premier League for us because there will have been such a gap,” he said this week.
Last time the two sides met at Villa Park it was quite the spectacle, with Villa coming back from 3-0 to draw 3-3 in the dying minutes of the game and the millions of neutrals watching on television will no doubt be hoping for something similar on Wednesday.
The difference between the two sides for me this time, though, will be Jack Grealish; who has carried the weight of the club on his back all season and the goal threat and unpredictability he offers, paired with his ability to glide through defenses, should be key once again.
They say pressure makes diamonds, given the extended break and time for Dean Smith’s side to refocus, I believe Villa will emerge victors so am predicting a 2-1 win with Grealish and Ally Samatta scoring for the Villa and Fleck scoring for the Blades.
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