Chris Wilder’s in-form Sheffield United host an unbeaten Aston Villa this Saturday in the Sky Bet Championship.
Sheffield United are going in to this game on the back of three impressive victories to their name, with the most recent coming as a 3-0 away victory against high-flying Bolton Wanderers.
Whilst the victory wasn’t quite enough to push them in to the play-off places, it certainly made a statement that Chris Wilder and his side are no longer a side riding on form, but a team with passion, energy and quality that can threaten any side in this division.
Aston Villa on the other hand have been left frustrated in recent weeks. Despite the table showing a total of nine points (2W, 3D), this could be a very different story.
Steve Bruce rightfully stated that his side had enough chances to “win two games” following on from his sides 1-1 draw with 23rd placed Reading on Saturday, which saw summer signing and Sheffield United target, Sam Baldock, score a 93rd minute equaliser to lift the Royals from the foot of the table.
However, despite this, in previous league games Steve Bruce, former Blades boss, can be counting himself lucky that his side were able to take anything from their opening few games.
Following on from a comfortable opening day victory against Hull City, a lot of fans were thinking that the Villans were picking up where they left off last campaign. However, a stoppage time winner at home to newly promoted Wigan Athletic, a disappointing draw away against 10-man Ipswich Town, and a stoppage time equaliser at home to Brentford means Aston Villa are without a win in their previous four games in all competitions.
Chris Wilder could name an unchanged squad from the side that beat Bolton 3-0 last weekend.
It seems to many fans that Wilder may have found his preferred starting XI, for now at least.
Rumours are still circulating around the club as to whether another striker will be brought in before the close of the loan window on Friday. Ashley Fletcher of Middlesbrough and Scott Hogan of Aston Villa are the most common names with regards to links with the Blades.
However, Chris Wilder is believed to have submitted his bids for specific players and now it remains to be seen whether clubs are able to accept, given they find a replacement. With regards to outgoings, it is believed that Milwall are showing a very keen interest in former Southend midfielder Ryan Leonard.
Aston Villa could make several changes to their side that lost midweek to Burton Albion as they look to bounce back with a victory at Bramall Lane.
One such player who will be hoping for a place in the starting line-up will be Republic of Ireland international Connor Hourihan.
The former Barnsley midfielder started the fixture against Reading on the bench but did make an impact after coming on at half time.
One player who will be assessed to the wire will be playmaker Jack Grealish, former Spurs target came off at half time against Reading with what Steve Bruce described as a “bad dead leg”. The midfielder played no part in the game against Burton midweek and it remains to be seen if the player will be fit come Saturday.
- This is the 133rd time these sides have met in all competitions – Aston Villa do have a substantial advantage over the Blades with a 47.7% win rate (63W, 31D, 38L).
- This fixture has produced a lot of goals in recent years, in fact over the past seven meetings, a total of 23 goals have been scored.
- The 1-0 victory for Aston Villa back in January was the first time a team had scored without response since May 2007.
- Only two of the previous 12 games has finished all square between these two sides, a run dating back to the original premier league campaign back in 1992.
- Sheffield United have only beaten Aston Villa twice in their last 13 attempts and haven’t beaten them in a home league fixture since December 1991.
Sheffield United 1-1 Aston Villa
The form Sheffield United are in, coupled by the belief, drive and quality of football the team are playing cannot be ignored. John Fleck’s goal against Bolton on Saturday came after a total 16 successful passes, involving 10 players, were strung together. This is the longest passing build-up play for a goal in the Championship so far this season and acts as a testament for the quality of football Chris Wilder has got Sheffield United playing.
However, with all that said, Steve Bruce will have given his side a tough speaking to following on from a wasteful performance against a beatable Reading team. Meaning they will be all fired to turn their fortunes around and really get their season back on track.
I can see this game being quite heated, with both sides wanting to go yet another game without defeat at least. The problem with this is I can see it cancelling each other out. Sheffield United to take this lead in the first half, only for Aston Villa to cancel it out in the second. 1-1.
Picture Credit: Sheffield United