Sheffield Utd, Villa braced for Premier League restart in global spotlight

AFP
Chris Wilder has taken Sheffield United from the third tier to the Premier League since taking over in 2016 (AFP Photo/Lindsey Parnaby)
Chris Wilder has taken Sheffield United from the third tier to the Premier League since taking over in 2016 (AFP Photo/Lindsey Parnaby)

London (AFP) - Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder and Aston Villa boss Dean Smith said they were aware the eyes of the world would be on their match when they relaunch the Premier League on Wednesday.

The high-flying Blades travel to Villa Park for the first game in the English top-flight after a three-month suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Later on Wednesday, Manchester City host Arsenal, with 92 games packed into just five-and-a-half weeks.

"First game back is going to be a little bit different, what we understand is the magnitude of the game, the coverage of the game," Wilder said at his pre-match video press conference on Monday.

"Villa-Sheffield United was a Championship game last year and would possibly have been seventh or eighth on (BBC's) Match Of The Day and now it is 6:00 pm on the TV and worldwide coverage.

"From our point of view we want to put on a good show and make sure we play well."

Sheffield United, who have 10 games to play, are seventh in the table, chasing Champions League football.

They could move up to fifth place with three points at Villa Park, but Wilder will not allow himself to get distracted by talk of Europe.

"If it gets to the situation where we are one or two games out and we are still in a fantastic position then we will possibly talk about that," said Wilder.

"But at the moment we have quarter of a season to go, near enough. I am sure that you have seen the fixture list as such as I have seen it. There are some incredible challenges in front of us."

- 'Itching' to play -

Villa manager Smith, whose side are in the relegation places, said it was an honour to be playing the first game in the English top-flight since March.

Victory over the Blades, their game in hand over their relegation rivals, would take them out of the drop zone with nine matches remaining.

"The eyes of the world will be on us and we are looking forward to it," said Smith.

"The players have been itching to get back," he added.

Smith questioned the temporary rule change to allow five substitutions during games, saying it would benefit certain clubs. Teams can also name nine substitutes instead of seven.

"I wasn't for it," he said. "I just believe we started the season with certain rules and now we have changed it. I suppose it helps the clubs with the bigger squads.

"There was talk to change it because there is more risk of injury but having more subs doesn't help that. I just wanted it to stay as it was. I think Sheffield United were the same."

Wilder confirmed Sheffield United would extend highly rated goalkeeper Dean Henderson's loan deal in the next few days.

The England Under-21 international is close to agreeing an extension from Manchester United until the current season ends.

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