Aston Villa v Sheffield United – BBC News

Influential Villa midfielder John McGinn could feature for the first time since Christmas

TEAM NEWS

Aston Villa midfielder John McGinn is available for the first time since sustaining a fractured ankle on 21 December, although head coach Dean Smith will manage the Scot’s workload.

Goalkeeper Jed Steer has recovered from an Achilles injury but Tom Heaton and Wesley are out until next season.

Sheffield United have a fully-fit squad going into Wednesday’s Premier League resumption.

Manager Chris Wilder has hinted there will be no surprises in his line-up.

MOTD COMMENTATOR’S NOTES

@martinfisherbbc: Just two words will do. At last!

After 100 long, long days the Premier League is back.

Regrettably it’s not football as we know it; how can it be without any fans at the ground? It’s not commentary as I know it either.

For this one, I won’t be on the gantry at Villa Park. Instead I’ll be in my office at home, commentating on pictures on my television. Handy for that quick dash downstairs for a half-time cuppa maybe but what if the cat wanders in? Or the wi-fi goes down?!

Trifling concerns. What matters is that football is back. Goals will be scored again. Points will be won and lost again. Issues will be resolved on the pitch rather than with a calculator.

The music stopped on 9 March with Aston Villa losing heavily at Leicester. It was their fourth successive defeat, leaving them two points adrift of safety. Relegation looked inevitable when the talk was of declaring the season null and void, but now Dean Smith’s men at least have a chance to plot an escape route. The enforced break means McGinn is fit to play a part – it will need to be a leading one.

Sheffield United pick up in seventh position. The surprise package of the season, they have Europe firmly in their sights. Three successive away games in eight days will immediately test those credentials.

Last season’s corresponding fixture in the Championship finished 3-3. A similar goal-fest would be a fitting way to mark the resumption of Premier League football but, personally, after too many box sets, sports books and dog walks over the past 100 days, I’m just happy to settle for the return of those once familiar sounds of the referee’s whistle and boots on a ball.

LAWRO’S PREDICTION

It is obvious where Villa need to improve if they are going to climb out of the bottom three because, defensively, they have been a nightmare. It is a fresh start for them, and a chance to cut those errors out.

In normal circumstances, Sheffield United would be the favourites here because of the season they have had, but both teams will feel like guinea pigs because no-one knows quite what to expect.

Prediction: 1-1

Lawro’s full predictions

Severe winter weather, like the snow seen above during a 1947 FA Cup tie involving the Blades, had led to a large number of postponements that season

MATCH FACTS

Head-to-head

  • Sheffield United won the reverse fixture 2-0 in December and are looking to secure their first league double over Aston Villa since 1965-66.
  • However, the Blades are winless in 12 league visits to Villa Park since a 2-0 top-flight triumph in January 1966 (D5, L7). They did win at Villa as recently as January 2014 in the FA Cup.
  • Aston Villa have won five of the seven Premier League meetings, including all three at home.

Aston Villa

  • Villa have lost five consecutive matches in all competitions, including four in the league. They have not had a longer losing streak since a run of 11 straight Premier League defeats in 2016.
  • They could equal the longest Premier League losing streak of any club this campaign: five by Bournemouth from November to December.
  • Dean Smith’s side have earned a solitary point from 12 league matches this season against the teams currently in the top nine of the table. Sheffield United are seventh.
  • It’s nine league and cup games without a clean sheet for Villa, who have the worst defensive record in the division.
  • Smith is unbeaten in all seven home league fixtures as a manager versus Sheffield United, drawing the last four.

Sheffield United

  • A Sheffield United win on Wednesday would make them the first promoted club since Ipswich in 2001 to have more than 45 points after 28 matches.
  • Their only two defeats in 13 Premier League away fixtures this season came at Manchester City and Liverpool.
  • Chris Wilder’s side have won all three league matches against promoted opposition this season. Liverpool and Southampton are the only other teams with a 100% winning record in such fixtures.
  • The Blades have the division’s second-best defensive record, with only Liverpool conceding fewer.
  • Enda Stevens made seven Premier League appearances for Aston Villa in 2012-13.

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