Aston Villa Ready for English Premier League Restart

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Dean Smith, Manager of Aston Villa looks on prior to the Premier League match

Aston Villa manager Dean Smith says “the eyes of the world will be on us” when his side host Sheffield United at Villa Park in the first Premier League game since the coronavirus shutdown.

The English top flight has been on hold since 13 March, with Villa’s 4-0 loss at Leicester the last game played.

Smith’s comments were echoed by Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder, who says his players “understand the magnitude of the game”.

“First game back is going to be a little bit different,” said Wilder.

“Villa versus Sheffield United was a Championship game last year and would possibly have been seventh or eighth on [BBC’s] Match Of The Day but now it is 18:00 BST on the TV and worldwide coverage.”

The Blades are seventh in the table and in contention for a top-four finish with 10 games remaining, but Wilder will not allow his players to be distracted by the prospect of Champions League football.

“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. There are some incredible challenges in front of us.”

Victory at Villa Park would move the Yorkshire club up to fifth in the table, while a win for the hosts would lift them out of the relegation zone.

Smith added he is not in favour of the temporary rule change to allow up to five substitutions per side, saying it will “help the clubs with bigger squads”.

“I just believe we started the season with certain rules and now we have changed it,” he said.

“There was talk of more risk of injury but having more subs doesn’t help that.”

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