Sheffield United are warned they will face a much-improved Aston Villa when the Premier League returns to action this month

Sheffield United have been warned they will face a much-improved Aston Villa side when they return to Premier League action later this month than the one which had lost all five of its outings before English football was placed into lockdown.

Tuesday, 2nd June 2020, 5:00 pm

Dean Smith, the Aston Villa manager, believes midfielder John McGinn could start June 17th’s fixture at Villa Park after making significant progress in his battle ro recover from a fractured ankle.

Together with Jack Grealish, the Scotland international had been one of Villa’s most effective performers this term and his recovery has been described as a major boost to the club’s hopes of avoiding relegation.

“Ginny is a great player and he has such an infectious personality that when he isn’t around the team, it does make a big difference,” Tyrone Mings, the Villa defender, said. “I think he is one of the players who, when they are on the team sheet, it affects the mindset of the opposition.

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“He is certainly one of those players for us, because he brings so much on and off the pitch. It will be good to have him back, for sure.”

Although McGinn’s importance is not reflected in the statistics - Villa have won 33 per cent of all their games so far this term, compared to 30 per cent when he featured - the 25-year-old’s presence will certainly lift the spirits of Smith’s side.

Villa also hope the break in competition - announced when the Covid-19 pandemic reached these shores in March - can allow them to rewrite the form book, having failed to win a PL fixture since January 21. That sequence of results had seen the slip to 19th - two points from safety - while United, unbeaten in six, were only five outside the Champions League qualification positions when the blanket postponements were announced.

Although that momentum has now been lost, Wilder believes his players can pick up where they left off after studying their mental as well as physical shape following last week’s return to contact training.

Oliver Norwood of Sheffield United challenges Aston Villa's John McGinn during December's Premier League fixture at Bramall Lane, which Chris Wilder's side won 2-0: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

United beat Villa 2-0 at Bramall Lane in December.

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Chris Wilder will lead Sheffield United back into action at Villa Park on June 17: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

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John McGinn could feature for Aston Villa when Sheffield United visit Villa Park later this month: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images