After a disappointing second-round exit of the Carabao Cup, Steve Bruce will be looking to get back to winning ways against Sheffield United. He has failed to win in four, drawing 3 and losing 1.
The Villa manager may find himself under serious pressure in my opinion if he doesn’t leave Bramall Lane with a win. The vultures are already circling and with a new CEO in place, he will want to make a good impression.
Sheffield United impressed last season in their first season back in the Championship. Manager Chris Wilder guided them to an impressive 10th placed finish sitting just 6 points off the playoff places.
The Blades will be reasonably satisfied with their start to the season and currently sit in 7th place. Wilders side started the season with a disappointing 2-1 loss to Swansea where an 85th-minute goal from Yan Dhanda stole the share of the points from United. A 3-0 defeat to Middlesbrough then followed. This was soon rectified with three wins from three against QPR, Norwich and Bolton.
It would be fair to say that the goals are spread around so far this season for United. Billy Sharp currently tops the scoring charts with 2. The same could be said for the assists with 6 different players assisting. Sharp’s striker partner tops the assist charts with 2.
The Big Match
This game has the potential to be a game of high quality as both sides possess brilliant passers of the ball. United are renowned in this division for being a very good passing side with Mark Duffy having the clubs highest pass accuracy of 87%. Closely followed by new signing Oliver Norwood with an 86.9% pass accuracy.
This is shown by the stat that Sheffield United complete the second-fewest dribblers in the league with just 5.4 per game ahead of only Millwall with 4.6. This is the direct opposite to Aston Villa who completes the second most in the division with 10.6 per game behind only Nottingham Forest with 10.8.
As a result of their lack of dribbling, United are the least fouled side in the division picking up 7.4 fouls per game compared to Villa who are the fourth most fouled side in the division picking up 14 per game.
The passing accuracy of the Villa midfield will be key in this game to get the ball to the front men. The man tasked with stopping this will most likely be Chris Basham. The centre-back has the sixth most interceptions in the league with 2.6 per game just behind Mile Jedinak with 2.5.
United has stuck with their trusted 3-5-2 formation from last season that transitions into a 5-3-2 when defending. They will be looking to overload the midfield in attack and stay compact at the back in defence.
Due to the passing ability that Sheffield posses in midfield, Villa should look to press them high up the field. This will hopefully force them into an error allowing Villa to utilise the pace they possess on the counter-attack.
Bruce has stated there will be ‘major changes’ as you would expect following a much-changed side in the midweek defeat to Burton. I would expect them to line up with a 4-4-1-1 formation.
Bruce is hopeful of having Jack Grealish, John McGinn and Jonathan Kodjia available. He stated in his press conference yesterday: “We’ve got a few knocks – Grealish, McGinn, Kodjia, Adomah. I expect two or three of them to be ok.”
It is unclear if new loan signing Yannick Bolasie will feature or not.
Scott Hogan returned to training for the first time this season. The striker, who was linked with a move to Sheffied United, is expected to return after the International break.
United will check on striker Clarke who picked up a knock last weekend. Midfielder Paul Coutts is hoping to edge closer after breaking his leg in November last year.
Defenders George Baldock (knee) and Kean Bryan (match fitness) are expected to miss out.