Aston Villa-Sheffield United Preview
Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder believes Jack Grealish is "the best player in England" and is glad the Aston Villa midfielder will play no part in Wednesday's Premier League clash.
Grealish has missed Villa's last two matches with a leg injury and has been ruled out of the trip to bottom side Sheffield United.
The Villans won in the England international's absence against Leeds United last time out, but they have otherwise struggled without their star man available.
And Wilder, speaking shortly before Dean Smith confirmed Grealish will play no part at Bramall Lane, is pleased with the news.
"I hope Jack doesn't play," he said. "Have another day off Jack! Return at the weekend, because I think he is the best player in England."
United are 15 points from safety with 12 games to play and Wilder, whose side have won just three of their 26 league games this term, has already turned focus to next season.
"We can only be realistic," he said. "Even the most optimistic of staff, players and Sheffield United players will think that this is quite a tough situation we are in.
"We have had two seasons [in the top flight] and we have raised a few quid in that period and invested in young players so that if we did take the drop we can come back strong.
"What we need to do now is keep hold of all the best players and maybe add a couple in the summer and come flying back. That's not the worst model in the world."
Villa still have plenty to play for, meanwhile, as they sit just six points off the top four with two games in hand to play ahead of their showdown with United.
Despite the home side's woeful form this campaign, Smith is not taking anything for granted and insists the Blades cannot be completely written off just yet.
"They're still fighting and they won't believe they're down yet, but it's looking hard for them," he said.
"I've known Chris for a long time and I don't doubt their professionalism and pride in every game that they play. Knowing Chris as I do, they will be ready for every game."
Sheffield United - Enda Stevens
Wilder's defence has been decimated by injuries but versatile left wing-back Stevens is at least now back to fitness, and he will be as determined as anyone to kickstart his side's campaign.
The Republic of Ireland international has not ended on the winning side in any of his 18 Premier League games this term - the last player to play more matches in a season in the competition without winning was Alan Hutton in 2015-16 for Villa (28 games).
Aston Villa - Anwar El Ghazi
El Ghazi scored the winner early on against Leeds and now has six goals for the season in the Premier League and seven overall, making this his best goalscoring campaign in both regards.
Five of the Dutch winger's six top-flight goals this term have come away from home, a return that he will be looking to build on at Bramall Lane.
- Sheffield United have won their last two home league games against Villa, last winning three in a row against them between 1968 and 1976.
- Villa are looking to secure their first league double over United since the 1993-94 campaign, following their 1-0 win against them earlier this season.
- The Blades have lost 10 home league games this season, only losing more in one season in their entire history - 11 at Bramall Lane in 2010-11 in the Championship.
- Smith's side have kept more away clean sheets than any other Premier League side this season (eight). They have never kept nine clean sheets on the road in a single top-flight campaign before.
- United have lost 21 league matches this season, which is the most by a side managed by Wilder since his Northampton Town team lost 21 in 2014-15 in League Two. In only one previous season in his managerial career has Wilder lost more than 21, losing 22 matches in 2003-04 as Halifax Town manager in the Conference.
Updated March 2, 2021