Following a break of just over three months, the Premier League action returns on Wednesday with a game that has implications on both ends of the table, when Aston Villa entertain Sheffield United at Villa Park in a 6.00 pm kick off.
Villa will resume after the enforced break in a perilous position in the bottom three, still two points away from safety. The visitors- in their first season back after promotion last season- are sitting in a very comfortable seventh place with 43 points, only five points off fourth placed Chelsea.
Both sides still have a game in hand over their rivals, however, so Wednesday’s match is huge for both teams.
When these sides last met they played out an enthralling 2-2 draw. The teams have met seven times in the past with The Blades edging the encounters 3-2.
Villa’s last game before the break ended in a thumping 4-0 loss to Leicester City, while Sheffield United earned all three points after a narrow 1-0 win against strugglers Norwich City at Bramall Lane.
The hosts will go into the game in poor form, having mustered just a single win in their last five league games. That sole victory was a 2-1 win over fellow strugglers Watford.
By contrast the visitors will be looking to extend their fine recent run of form after compiling three victories in their last five Premiership games, two of which have been on their travels.
Villa have certainly enjoyed playing in front of their home fans, having found the net in their last ten home games but on Wednesday they will have to do so in front of no fans.
The Blades will relish travelling to Villa Park on a run of three games unbeaten, alongside picking up eight points from their last five matches.
On paper this game has the makings of being a tight cagey affair with Villa only scoring 34 goals so far in the Premiership, but having the worst defence in the division that has so far leaked 56 goals, with Sheffield United scoring 30 and only letting in just 25 goals. However, this trend may change on Wednesday after previous matches between the sides have yielded over three and a half goals per game.
The home side will be looking to midfielder Jack Grealish for inspiration and a goal to increase his tally to eight for the season, failing to hit the net in his last seven appearances. For the Blades meanwhile, the goals have been evenly shared around by Lys Mousset and John Fleck five apiece. John Lundstram and Oliver McBurnie have also managed four goals each.
The Frenchman Mousset is on a barren run of form at the moment having failed to score since back in December, a run that stretches back to 13 matches.
Villa have lost Brazilian striker Wesley for the remainder of the season with a knee injury and will also be without goalkeeper Tom Heaton who also has a knee problem.
The visitors look to be going into Wednesday’s game with a clean bill of health.
For both clubs they desperately need to take something from their game in hand, with only nine games remaining thereafter everything is on the line for both of these great old teams.