Sheffield Utd, Villa brace for EPL restart in global spotlight

LONDON: 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 6pm 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.”

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.

“The eyes of the world will be on us and we are looking forward to it,” he said.

“We have worked very hard. The players during the lockdown have been very compliant with all the work we set them during the lockdown.”

“The players have been itching to get back. The biggest problem we had was having no timeline to work from. Finally getting the fixtures was great to fit in on my fixtures board.”

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.