Aston Villa vs Sheffield United
Villa Park, Birmingham
Wednesday, 17-06-2020 @8pm
Ref: Michael Oliver
Looking at how the season has unfolded, it is hard to believe that these two sides came up from the Championship last season.
Villa are fighting for their Premier League status while Sheffield have their sights set on Europe.
As the Premier League returns for the first time in three months, it will be a clash worth watching as it is very unpredictable.
One of the major benefits to arise from the three-month break in play is a chance for players to return to injury, and Aston Villa are able to welcome John McGinn back for this match. The Scottish midfielder had been one of Villa’s most important players alongside Jack Grealish before suffering a fractured ankle in December, and he now has the chance to feature during the closing stages of the season. Other long-term absentees such as Tom Heaton and Wesley remain sidelined, though, and neither are expected to return before the end of the extended season.
Sheffield United have avoided many major injuries this term and Wilder again has a clean bill of health for this match. The Blades will have been boosted by the news that goalkeeper Dean Henderson, who is in the running to win the Golden Gloves, will be allowed to extend his loan from fellow Champions League hopefuls Manchester United until the end of the campaign.
Sheffield United won the reverse fixture 2-0 in December and are looking to secure their first league double over Aston Villa since 1965-66. However, the Blades are winless in 12 league visits to Villa Park since a 2-0 top-flight triumph in January 1966 (D5, L7). They did win at Villa as recently as January 2014 in the FA Cup. Aston Villa have won five of the seven Premier League meetings, including all three at home.
Villa have lost five consecutive matches in all competitions, including four in the league. They have not had a longer losing streak since a run of 11 straight Premier League defeats in 2016. They could equal the longest Premier League losing streak of any club this campaign: five by Bournemouth from November to December. Dean Smith’s side have earned a solitary point from 12 league matches this season against the teams currently in the top nine of the table. Sheffield United are seventh. It’s nine league and cup games without a clean sheet for Villa, who have the worst defensive record in the division. Smith is unbeaten in all seven home league fixtures as a manager versus Sheffield United, drawing the last four.
A Sheffield United win on Wednesday would make them the first promoted club since Ipswich in 2001 to have more than 45 points after 28 matches. Their only two defeats in 13 Premier League away fixtures this season came at Manchester City and Liverpool. Chris Wilder’s side have won all three league matches against promoted opposition this season. Liverpool and Southampton are the only other teams with a 100% winning record in such fixtures. The Blades have the division’s second-best defensive record, with only Liverpool conceding fewer. Enda Stevens made seven Premier League appearances for Aston Villa in 2012-13.
Man City vs Arsenal
Etihad Stadium, Manchester
Wednesday, 17-06-2020 @10:15pm
Ref: Anthony Taylor
City haven’t been able to defend their Premier League crown, as they find themselves 25 points behind leaders Liverpool in the standings.
With the Reds needing just two more wins to be confirmed as champions, all Guardiola & co. can do is battle for pride and build momentum for the FA Cup and the UEFA Champions League run.
Their form prior to the suspension of football was hardly something to write home about. The Sky Blues had won just three of their last six fixtures in the Premier League, with their most recent game seeing them get beat 2-0 at the hands of rivals Manchester United. Guardiola will be hoping to put that behind and restart things with a win on Wednesday.
Arsenal have had an eventful campaign – but not always for the right reasons. The sacking of Unai Emery towards the end of the last year saw the Gunners poach City for Guardiola’s former No. 2, Mikel Arteta. Since taking over the reins though, the Spaniard has done a decent enough job, having managed to stay unbeaten in the league since the turn of the year (W4 D4).
The stoppage came at the worst time for Arsenal as they had started to string together a run of good results, having bagged three consecutive wins in the league, the latest being a 1-0 triumph over West Ham United. With momentum halted, Arteta & co. will have to start all over again as they look to move up the table from their current ninth place in the table and stand a chance to finish in the top six.
The reverse fixture, played in December last year, saw City thrash Arsenal 3-0 courtesy a Raheem Sterling goal and a Kevin De Bruyne double.
It is now almost a year since Leroy Sane last played for Man City – in the Community Shield in August – but the German winger is now ready to return having missed the entire 2019-20 campaign so far. Match fitness is likely to be an issue for the rumoured Bayern Munich target, although every player – injury or not – will have seen their sharpness drop as a result of the league’s suspension. Sane’s return leaves Guardiola with a clean bill of health ahead of the season’s restart, with Kevin De Bruyne, Aymeric Laporte and Sergio Aguero having all long shaken off knocks they were carrying prior to lockdown. Aguero’s record against Arsenal could see him chosen to lead the line ahead of Gabriel Jesus, with the Argentine netting 11 times from 15 appearances in this fixture.
Arsenal have also seen a number of injury concerns clear up in the time off, with Sead Kolasinac and Kieran Tierney back available and loanee Cedric Soares finally in contention to make his debut. Calum Chambers remains sidelined for now, but Lucas Torreira is back on the training pitch and could feature having made good strides in his recovery from a fractured ankle. The futures of Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have regularly been in the headlines during lockdown, and the latter could break a club record should he enhance his Golden Boot chances by scoring at the Etihad. The Gabon international has netted 49 times in 75 Premier League games for Arsenal and could become the club’s fastest to reach the half-century milestone – a record currently held by Thierry Henry, who brought up 50 goals in 83 games.
Manchester City have won their last six league and cup matches against Arsenal, their longest winning run versus the Gunners. Arsenal have lost the past five league meetings – it’s their longest such streak against a particular opponent since a seven-match sequence versus Ipswich between 1974 and 1977. The Gunners’ last win against City came in a FA Cup semi-final in 2017. This will be both sides’ second competitive match in the month of June. Manchester City beat Newport County 5-1 at home in a second tier game in 1947, while in the same year Arsenal lost 2-1 at Sheffield United in a top-flight encounter.
Manchester City have failed to score in the first half of seven of their past nine top-flight matches. However, 12 of the last 16 league goals City have scored against Arsenal have come in the opening 45 minutes. City have lost seven Premier League games this season, one more than in their previous two campaigns combined. Sergio Aguero has scored 10 goals in his last 12 appearances against Arsenal in all competitions, including a hat-trick when City beat Arsenal 3-1 at home last season. Pep Guardiola has never lost a home match against Arsenal in his managerial career, winning six of seven games. Kevin de Bruyne has been directly involved in six goals in his past seven Premier League starts against Arsenal, scoring four and assisting two.
Arsenal are unbeaten in the league this calendar year (W4, D4) – the only other side in the top four English divisions yet to lose in 2020 are Coventry City. The Gunners could draw six consecutive away league matches for the first time in their history. They have won just one of 11 top-flight fixtures this season against teams currently above them in the table (D5, L5). Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has scored 49 goals in 75 Premier League appearances – if he scores in this game he will be the sixth fastest player to reach 50 in the competition. Alexandre Lacazette has failed to score in each of his last 13 Premier League away matches.
The other upcoming Premier League games
-Norwich City vs Southampton @8pm
-Tottenham Hotspur vs Man United @10:15pm
-Watford vs Leicester City @2:30pm
-Brighton vs Arsenal @5pm
-West Ham vs Wolves @7:30pm
-Bournemouth vs Crystal Palace @9:45pm
-Newcastle United vs Sheffield United @4pm
-Aston Villa vs Chelsea @6:15
-Everton vs Liverpool @9pm
-Man City vs Burnely @10pm