The Villa Appetiser: Villa v Sheffield United 2017
With a below-par Villa falling to a 2-0 defeat in Derby, the pressure’s on to get back to winning ways with the danger of slipping out of the play-off spots now a reality.
Villa Park will host a big crowd as we face Chris Wilder’s high-flying Sheffield United, who, like us, are suffering poor form after a great start to the campaign.
Bruce will face the team who gave him his start in management in 1998 – can we give the Villa fans an early Christmas present?
5th in the league table with the 6th best home record.
Last five matches at home: W 3, D 1, L 1
6th in league table with 8th best away record.
Last five matches away: W 2, L 3
James Chester on Saturday’s match
“Villa Park is a great place to play your football – a terrific stadium – and I always enjoy the thought of an upcoming game there.
“It’s certainly a massive match this weekend – but then again, they all are.
“The Christmas period is always a time fans enjoy – and it’s a vital time for us.
“We’re in the mix and it’s about really pushing forward now. At the moment, we’re certainly in and amongst it.
“We’re looking forward to this weekend. It’s always good to play at Villa Park. When the place is packed, they are great, great occasions. We, as players, love it.
“If you add the fact, we’re in the Christmas period – which always feels special – it should quite some occasion this weekend. If it’s packed-out, it would be wonderful.”
Chris Wilder on the Championship
“I look at our team and no disrespect; I’ve got a cover left-back playing central midfield last week and I’ve got a 17-year-old kid making his full debut in the Championship and it’s a tough division.
“There’s no hiding place in this league so we have to be as strong as we possibly can and recruit in the best possible way to give ourselves an opportunity of winning games.
“You look at other squads and groups of players and there some powerful, big teams and a lot of good players on show.”
“We’re in a division to have days like playing Villa away three days before Christmas in front of over 40,000 people live on Sky. We’ve got to embrace where we’re at and our situation.
“We just need to tweak a few things, up our performance levels a little bit and we feel we’re a match for any team in the division with the understanding the opponents are a huge, powerful football club at this level and we’re going to have to play well to get a result.”
26th September 1987 – Aston Villa 1 Sheffield United 1
Just over 14,000 were at Villa Park the last time we played Sheffield United at home in the second division.
Kevin Gage scored the goal in a 1-1 draw, which also featured on-loan forward Malcolm Allen who made one of four appearances for Villa. He returned to Watford after this match.
One to Watch
Enda Stevens – Signed under McLeish but made just six appearances for Villa. He’s played most of Sheffield United’s games this season, picking up four assists.
Sheffield United are winless in 10 league visits to Villa Park
Facts to Sweep Under the Carpet
After a slump in form, the defeat to Derby was probably inevitable.
We looked tired against Millwall and after the horrible mistake by Glenn Whelan, who to be fair has played very well lately, it was always going to be a struggle against a well-drilled Derby side.
Times have changed since the last time we faced Sheffield United in the league. In that Premier League encounter in May 2007, Villa won 3-0 thanks to goals from Gabriel Agbonlahor, Ashley Young, and Patrik Berger.
Similarly to Millwall, many Villa fans will remember our FA Cup exit at the hands of Sheffield United.
While fighting a relegation battle in League One, Sheffield United prevailed at Villa Park in January 2014. A rare goal from Helenius wasn’t enough as Saturday’s opponents won 2-1 on that day. From that Villa squad, only Jed Steer remains at the club.
Having progressed from League One last season, Sheffield United have impressively carried their promotion momentum into this campaign. Accompanying Villa in the play-off places, they won’t fear a trip to Villa Park, particularly given our recent form.
Admittedly, the Blades’ form has tailed off in recent weeks, but this could work against Villa. After three consecutive losses, they’ll be even more determined to “stop the rot” and could be difficult to break down at Villa Park.
Despite recent form, it’s been a memorable 2017 for Sheffield United. They have won 27 league matches in 2017 – their most in a calendar year since joining the Football League in 1892!
In order to start picking up points again Blades boss Wilder could refresh his squad, and has ex-Villa players Enda Stevens and Samir Carruthers to choose from.
Carruthers hasn’t featured too heavily of late but has found the net once this season, while Stevens has played most games. With a potential point to prove at Villa Park, who knows what could happen…
The Blades also boast Leon Clarke. After a career drifting between various clubs in the Football League, he’s having a terrific season and is currently the Championship’s top scorer with 14 goals.
With a crowd potentially in excess of 40,000 it’s a big occasion, but we’ll need a big performance.
“it should quite some occasion this weekend. If it’s packed-out, it would be wonderful.” – Chester on Saturday’s game
Why Villa Have Got This Game in the Bag
Whelan’s mistake against Derby was unlike the Villa of recent weeks. It may just have been a bad day at the office, and with the support of a packed Villa Park crowd, things could improve on Saturday.
Bruce had a pretty good historical record against Derby, but it’s an even better record against Saturday’s opponents.
He has a 100% win record in managerial clashes with the Blades, winning the last six previous matches. A 5-3 goal-fest over Sheffield United when Hull City boss in the FA Cup semi-final in 2014 was the last occasion.
Keinan Davis is expected to return after missing the Derby encounter through illness, so that’s one positive in terms of our depleted squad.
You can always rely on the historical stats to raise some Christmas cheer and sure enough they offer a sense of encouragement. Sheffield United are winless in 10 league visits to Villa Park, their last win coming in 1966 where a brace from Gil Reece saw them to a 2-0 victory.
Having lost at Preston last weekend, the Blades have lost three of their last four away games, recording just one point in their last five league matches.
Goals haven’t been an issue for Sheffield United this season, but in defence there are issues. They’ve not kept a clean sheet in the league in 10 games, the last one occurring on the 14th October. It’s the longest run without one in the Championship.
While Leon Clarke tops the scoring charts, Adomah isn’t too far off, and of the 18 players with seven or more goals in the league this season, Adomah has the best shot conversion rate (31.3%).
If he’s at his best against Sheffield United, we’ll be in with a good chance of three points.
Home form continues to be a strength of ours – we’ve won 12 home league matches in 2017, our best total in a calendar year since 1996.
It’s the last home game of 2017. Hopefully we can get a result that builds on our impressive home record this year.
Merry Christmas, and UTV!
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