Pre-match Report: Sheffield United

Follow us on Twitter @claretandview // Words by Mark Jirobe (@VillaMarkPGH)

With only claiming two points from their last three outings, Aston Villa will attempt to right the ship against a Sheffield United side who are right behind them on the league table. Both sets of clubs have 37 points through 22 games, but it is the goal differential that separates them. After an absolutely woeful showing against Derby County last match, Villa now need the starting eleven to produce when it matters most.

Even with averaging 1.6 goals a game, The Blades will come to Villa park on Saturday having only secured one point in their last five outings. With Uniteds’ last three games coming against Preston North End, Bristol City, and Millwall it is a real head-scratcher to why a team so high up on the table has been struggling lately. Although manager Chris Wilder is remaining positive in times of peril, this would be a quintessential game for Villa to get back to gaining maximum points.

One of the very few positives for Aston Villa coming off of the 2-0 defeat to Derby County was the play of Jack Grealish. It seemed as though every time Grealish had the ball at his feet, he was definitively trying to make something happen. And every time he didn’t have the ball at his feet, he was making quick and decisive runs to aid a teammate in getting out of trouble or looking for a surgical through-ball. There are still a percentage of Villa supporters who believe that Grealish shouldn’t just be able to walk back into the squad, but his play against Derby even in a loss signalled that “Super Jack” is ready to put his freak injury sustained earlier in the season behind him and get back to being a mainstay in the starting squad.

After Keinan Davis was unable to play due to illness against Derby, Steve Bruce made a very peculiar team selection that saw no natural striker in his starting eleven. After the defeat, Bruce apologetically exclaimed that he may have made a mistake, as Scott Hogan was on the bench and came on late in the contest. If there was a morsel of doubt to what Davis means to the rhythm and chemistry of this Aston Villa group of players, there shouldn’t be after the Derby clash. The entire Aston Villa squad missed the Young Lion for a multitude of reasons, but the very obvious reason being the young mans hold-up play to allow midfielders to get further up the pitch and into attacking positions.

Sheffield United will not be coming to Villa Park scared and that is for certain. United have garnered 21 points away from home this season, and would like nothing more than to get back to having any resemblance of a winning team again away from home.

With 14 goals in 19 apps throughout the season, Blades centre-forward Leon Clarke will be the man that needs to be marked in a very specific fashion. Now Clarke’s goal bonanza may seem like a very impressive stat, but the 32-year old has only scored two goals away from Bramall Lane thus far. And although scoring goals will never be seen as unimpressive, Clarke netted four goals against Hull City in early November and a hat-trick two games later against Fulham.  It will be quite interesting to see which Leon Clarke shows up against Villa, but he is a player to keep an eye on either way.

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