Aston Villa have work to do if they’re to escape relegation back to the Championship at the first time of asking this season. The Villains have the worst defensive record in the Premier League having conceded 56 goals in just 28 fixtures this term and as such, they currently sit second bottom in the table, but only two points away from Watford and West Ham who both sit above the bottom three.
The relegation battle still has plenty of twists and turns remaining once we get back underway, with many teams still very much in the mire at the bottom of the table. One name missing from that fight however is perhaps a surprise, but Sheffield United have confounded expectations since coming up from the second tier alongside the Villains last term.
Instead of fighting bravely against the drop like many expected, the Blades actually have one eye on a potential Champions League spot. With Manchester City banned from next year’s tournament, a top five finish would be enough to secure a place in Europe’s elite club competition and the South Yorkshire side are currently lying in 7th, just two points away from the top five.
Chris Wilder’s tactical innovativeness has proved his side’s major strength this season, as well as a defensive solidity displayed by the league’s second lowest amount of goals conceded. As the leakiest defence in the divisions comes up against the second best, expectation lies on United’s shoulders in the Premier League’s first game back from the break.
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Aston Villa vs Sheffield United Predictions
Squawka Stat: Just 21% of Sheffield United’s games have seen over 2.5 goals scored this season – the lowest number in the Premier League
Although Over 2.5 goals has been a decent bet in Aston Villa’s games this season, that’s due more to the Villains’ possessing the leakiest defence in the Premier League than a particularly strong attacking unit and they now come up against the league’s best team to back on under 2.5 goals accumulators.
No fewer than 79% of Sheffield United’s games this season have less fewer than three goals scored, with only six of their 28 Premier League matches this term winning over 2.5 goals bets. You may feel that Villa’s record in this market cancels that out, but the Blades’ distinctive style of play is dominant against the weaker sides in the division so we anticipate a combative game with few chances at either end here.
Although Dean Smith’s side rank first in the Premier League for xG conceded, their opponents rank as low as 15th for xG scored despite their lofty position in the table – only one place above Villa themselves. Unfortunately for the neutrals, we expect few chances and few goals as the Premier League gets back underway in Birmingham on Wednesday evening.
Squawka Stat: Aston Villa have lost 17 Premier League games this season – the second-highest amount of defeats in the Premier League
Only bottom of the table Norwich City have lost more games than this Aston Villa side this season and they now come up against the Premier League’s surprise package in Sheffield United – who are riding high in 7th place with as many as 11 wins to their name despite only coming up with the Villains from the Championship last season.
Although it’s tough to say with too much certainty that form prior to the league’s temporary suspension will have an effect in this game, it’s also worth noting that Dean Smith’s charges had lost their five consecutive games in all competitions including a 4-0 defeat to Midlands rivals Leicester City in the last Premier League game played back in March.
With the second best defensive outfit in the Premier League going up against the worst defensive outfit in the Premier League here, we can only see one winner.
One of the roadblocks the Premier League’s suspension threw at clubs is that of player contracts, with many initially set to become free agents at the end of June. One of those is Henderson, whose loan from Manchester United would have lasted until the end of the month – clear of any football Sheffield United may have needed him to play. But now the Blades have had to work to get Henderson to increase his loan until the revised end of the Premier League campaign, as clubs across the division have had to do with their out-of-contract players. The news will be a huge boost for Sheffield United in their question for European football, with Henderson being one of the league’s top goalkeepers this season. Only Nick Pope (11) has kept more clean sheets than Henderson’s 10 this season, while only Liverpool (9) have conceded fewer away goals than Sheffield United (12) in the Premier League.