Why Aston Villa will look to England hopeful Jack Grealish to blunt in-form Sheffield United
While Sheffield United have taken to life in the Premier League like a duck to water, Saturday’s opponents Aston Villa have made an indifferent start to their first campaign back in the top flight.
Villa head to Bramall Lane following a 4-1 reverse to Leicester City on Sunday and currently sit in 17th place.
But with only goal difference keeping Dean Smith’s side out of the bottom three, are Villa fans disappointed with the club’s progress in their first season back in the Premier League since 2016?
Birmingham Live’s Villa reporter Ashley Preece believes they aren't.
He said: “Villa have had some tough, energy-sapping fixtures of late while the festive run of games should go a long way in deciding their Premier League fate.
“Supporters will look to this time last year when they were mid-table in the Championship so everything's a bonus, in truth.”
Pivotal to Villa’s success is midfielder and skipper Jack Grealish.
“At the start of the season it was John McGinn who was Villa's top performer, but Grealish has taken over that mantle,” says Preece.
“The 24-year-old cracked in his fourth in seven games last week and is making this Premier League lark look easy, rubber-stamped with him being the most-fouled player. He can dictate the play, while he's adding goals to his game now.”
The visitors will be without injured England defender Tyrone Mings, but Preece believes Villa may not miss him quite as much as some think.
“(He) has looked out of sorts since returning from England duty and errors have started to creep into his game,” he says.